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Early diagnosis may be key in slowing Alzheimer's epidemic

Published: Sunday, May 19 2013 10:59 p.m. MDT

There are approximately 32,000 people living with Alzheimer's in Utah, requiring the assistance of more than 137,000 unpaid caregivers, most of whom are family members, Jenks said.

The toll is only expected to rise, as the baby boomer generation is aging into its 60s. In fact, a 127 percent increase in the number of Alzheimer's patients is anticipated between 2000 and 2025 in Utah, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

While treatments are not currently available to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer's and related dementia, early detection allows people to get the maximum benefit from intervention methods that are available, consider participation in a clinical trial, establish a support network and plan for the future.

Research shows that Alzheimer's disease causes changes in the brain years before any symptoms appear, and a better understanding of normal age-related cognitive decline could provide important insights for future prevention efforts.

Self-education and planning tends to benefit those faced with the imminent challenges and anxiety, and sometimes depression and stress that often accompany a diagnosis of the mind-changing illness, the report states.

The federal government in 2012 called for data collection and surveillance efforts to track the prevalence and progression of Alzheimer's disease throughout the country.

While the latest CDC data, a result of the organization's Healthy Brain Initiative, are the first of its kind to report on cognitive decline, additional understanding of the issue is expected with more definitive numbers from the enhanced national research efforts.

The numbers are intended to give states an idea of who might require services and supports now or in the future, as well as prompt action among individuals who might sense something is amiss in their own lives.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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