Tag Archives: medical research

Alzheimer’s claims another celebrity

A dreaded disease that needs intense national attention has taken another noted celebrity.

Glen Campbell died today at the age of 81. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a merciless, ruthless killer that afflicts about 4 million Americans. That number is going to increase as the nation’s median age continues to rise.

My blog post today isn’t so much about Campbell as it is about the disease that killed him. I’ve written to you many times over the years about Alzheimer’s disease. I take news such as Campbell’s death very personally.

My mother died of Alzheimer’s complications on Sept. 17, 1984. She was 61 years of age at the time of her death. She was diagnosed formally only in the spring of 1980 but truth be told Mom exhibited some strange behavior shifts for years prior to the neurologist’s grim diagnosis.

The federal budget doesn’t devote nearly the amount of money I would prefer for research into finding a cure for this neurological disease. Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t get the kind of attention it needs, either. Why is that? Its victims generally are older. They are susceptible to this killer. We used to pass it off as merely age-related dementia.

I will tell you this as well: Its victims aren’t just the individuals it strikes without warning; they also are the loved ones who care for them. The afflicted individuals eventually do not know they are in dire peril. They don’t know their family members. They lose their cognitive ability … all of it. In my mother’s case, she lost the ability to speak.

This disease is as ugly as they come.

The only blessing in Glen Campbell’s death is that we’re talking yet again about the disease that killed him. May this conversation translate — finally! — into meaningful commitment to finding a cure.

Shriver steps into Alzheimer’s battle

It’s presumptuous, I know, to refer to yourself and a famous person in the same sentence.

But I’ll do so anyway.

I feel Maria Shriver’s pain as she engages in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.


This merciless killer claimed her father, the great Sargent Shriver, the way it took my own mother. It did so brutally and with extreme malice. It robbed Maria’s father of his towering intellect, just as it stole my own mother’s quick wit and intelligence.

I’m with Maria Shriver as she wages war on Alzheimer’s disease.

She notes in a CNN essay that the disease remains an unknown, despite the fact that it has claimed 5 million victims already — in the United States alone!

Her essay references a group called Wipe Out Alzheimer’s. Shriver writes: “We’re asking women to put together their own “brain trusts” in their communities — groups that will go out and do some muscular fund-raising. But equally important, these brain trusts will gather to discuss and disseminate information about what the disease is and isn’t. What are the warning signs we should look for in ourselves and our parents? What’s the difference between normal forgetfulness, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Can brain games or meditation slow cognitive decline? Do dietary supplements help?”

Shriver notes that women seem more inclined to get the disease than men. She also believes women hold the key to rounding up more money to pay for the research that is needed to fight this killer disease.

Shriver said: “It’s time for the narrative around Alzheimer’s to change. I remember when an HIV/AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence. I remember when cancer was a dirty word, and the prognosis was always grim. But AIDS and cancer activists are helping to take these diseases from terrifying to treatable, from hopeless to hopeful. We want to do the same with Alzheimer’s. We want to understand it, prevent it, treat it and beat it. Wipe Out Alzheimer’s is creating a global community of women activists, agitators and agents of change to do just that.”

You go, Maria Shriver. I’m betting you’ll find a lot of men ready and able to join the fight, too.

Breakthrough in Alzheimer's research? Yes … maybe

For more than three decades I’ve had this intensely personal fascination with Alzheimer’s disease.

My mother died of complications from this horrific affliction. I’ve seen friends waste away and succumb to it, just as Mom did.

And just recently I learned that another member of my family has been diagnosed with it.

I am dreading what lies ahead on the road for this beloved family member.

Then I saw an item out of Florida that suggests a breakthrough might be at hand.


USA Today reports that scientists believe a common blood pressure medication might hold the key to treating a “trigger” that causes the disease to begin destroying a person’s brain.

Here’s how the newspaper reported it: “Scientists at the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota, Fla., have discovered a common enzyme in all three known triggers of the disease. The enzyme is shut off by the key chemical in Nilvadipine, a blood pressure medication used overseas for the last 20 years.”

It sounds rather complicated. It’s not a cure, per se. It’s not even the discovery of a drug that arrests the advance of the disease. The findings suggest that scientists have found a way to stop one of those so-called “triggers” through the use of a common drug to treat high blood pressure.

The disease affects more than 5 million Americans. The number is going to accelerate as the Baby Boom generation — that includes my wife and me — continues to age.

One doesn’t see telethons or lots of celebrities lining up to proclaim their desire to stop this killer. It just does its dirty work and people die quietly. Yes, plenty of famous folks have been taken from us by this monstrous disease.

The news out of Sarasota, though, heartens me and I’ll continue to raise awareness of findings as they occur.

I’ll also say prayers for the researchers to stay on the hunt for more potential miracles. I can tell you that millions upon millions of American families — not to mention others around the world — are cheering them on.