DENVER -- Alzheimer's disease can cause devastating memory loss and debilitation. Early signs can surface at as early as age 50.
Finding a reason why some patients develop the disease but not others has been a real mystery, but now there's hope.
Researchers at Harvard University say a protein in the brain is responsible for protecting it from age related stress. They’ve discovered that those who develop Alzheimer's have a very low level of that protein.
Dr. Huntington Potter, Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of Colorado explains, "In people with Alzheimer's disease (the protein) seems to disappear so that suggests what goes wrong (is) a suppression of inflammation and stress in normal people but not with people with Alzheimer's disease and that results in the cell death."
This new information comes in addition to a study that shows women in their 60's are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as breast cancer. One in every six women compared to 1 in 11 men will develop the disease.
Kathy McBride works along with the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado to get the work out about the importance of supporting Alzheimer’s research.
She describes her experience with the disease saying, “I want to wear a badge that says I used to be a smart person, I was a professional woman and right now I'm probably the equivalent of my 6-year-old granddaughter.”
Researchers say understanding the disease is half the battle when it comes to beating it. But until their findings lead to better treatments or even a cure, doctors say it's important to know the early warning signs.
Dr. Potter says, “Very often the family notices the first symptoms, some confusion, occasionally some problems with memory perhaps a change in personality."