It’s infuriating the way TV advertisements present Alzheimer’s disease. The socially acceptable scenarios played out on theï¿½screen areï¿½insulting to those who deal with the raw truth of this devastating illness. Televised fantasies contribute to dulling our senses to the urgency needed to get on with solving this issue. Alzheimer’s afflicts 5.3 million Americans. It will afflict millions, millions more as the Baby Boomer generation ages. And so, while Alzheimer’s is relentless in unraveling the lives of its victims and their families, we also need to be relentless. We must unravel its causes. We must get this puzzle solved – once and for all!
The New York Times recently reported on a “Bold Plan” – a plan that would attempt to nip the disease in the bud, so to speak. The plan, in summary, is to block the formation of amyloid beta. Alzheimer’s is “defined by freckles of barnacle-like piles of” this amyloid beta (which is a protein fragment) in the brain. “So, the … thinking goes, if you block amyloid formation or get rid of amyloid accumulations – plaque – and if you start treatment before the disease is well under way, you might have a chance to alter its course.” So, there are two things that are key here: 1) getting rid of the amyloid accumulations, plaque; and 2) starting the treatment very early on in its course.
Let’s assume here that the major research universities and the big pharmaceutical corporations will be able to figure out how to deal with issue #1: getting rid of the plaque. The second issue however, will be equally as complex. In order to start someone’s treatment “early on in its course,” that someone will have to agree to test for Alzheimer’s. I think most of us are going to be content to have our heads buried in the sand of denial rather than voluntarily seek out an answer that could be both terrifying and life-altering. Would you want to know if you were going to be an Alzheimer’s victim? Would it make a difference if there were a treatment?