Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: What we're learning about Alzheimer's Disease

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Aug 4, 2015 11:00 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, August 4, 2015:

How often have you heard someone say, "Alzheimer's is the one disease I couldn't deal with" or at least a similar sentiment?

Many Americans seem willing to live with pain and physical limitations rather than not being able to function to their full mental capacity, while losing their memories and not knowing loved ones.

It's often said that the unknown breeds fear and that may be one reason so many are afraid of Alzheimer's.

The numbers themselves are truly frightening.  More than five million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and it's estimated that number could increase to 13.8 million by 2050.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's even though there have been some promising findings in research recently.

However, not all research ends in optimism.

Just last month, word came out about a study that indicated Alzheimer's progresses faster in women.  We already know that two-thirds of those disagnosed with Alzheimer's are women.

More research also concluded that sleep disorders could contribute to Alzheimer's

Appearing on Tuesday's Smart Talk to discuss the ramifications of the latest research are Dr. Paul Eslinger, a neuropsychologist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Candy Yingling, the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Pennsylvania Chapter.

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Candy Yingling and Paul Eslinger

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  • horse2hound4 img 2015-08-04 09:24

    Dr. Dale Bredesen at UCLA has some done some small scale research that shows the potential for improving memory and function in Alzheimer's patients (reported on The People's Pharmacy).

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-08-04 10:32

    A listener writes...
    Dr. Eslinger,

    My mother, who is in her 90's, received an annual Medicare-covered test at her doctor's office. The nurse told me that she passed "with flying colors".

    Is this the MMSE or Folstein test? I thought I might find a form online, but it only lists possible questions. Does the physician choose the questions? One example was to choose a number and count backwards by 7.

    My mother does not remember what day it is, repeats herself frequently and forgets from moment to moment. When she cannot find something, she suspects a family member of theft.

    I've heard about Ciostrazol and insulin through a nasal spray. Which doctor should she consult after her family doctor to learn if she can be helped?

    • Paul Eslinger img 2015-08-06 13:53

      In response to comments below, I can add a couple of suggestions for listeners.
      First, check into the Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet that may slow cognitive decline among aging adults. This is likely beneficial at every age and can be combined with other risk reduction approaches (sleep, exercise, cognitive health, metabolic health) to combat dementia. If dementia can be delayed by 5 years, it will greatly reduce prevalence, cost, and burden for individuals and caregivers.
      Second, the office screening tests may easily miss Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. In my clinic at the Hershey Medical Center, for example, we typically spend 90 minutes to obtain a full evaluation of cognition and behavior, whereas the office screening tests take about 6-8 minutes and cover only very brief questions. If a parent is not remembering what day it is and becoming suspicious of family members due to memory loss, I would recommend coming to a specialty memory clinic for evaluation and the possibility of treatment.
      Finally, there are several new treatments in clinical trials including intranasal insulin, beta amyloid clearing drugs and brain immune boosting drugs. There are not yet available for clinical prescription but hopefully one or more will become FDA approved soon. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions at the Hershey Medical Center (717)531-1804. Remember the prospect for significant treatment is very good and together we can realize this goal.