Free webinar will help participants in ‘Optimizing Brain Health’ during a discussion about Alzheimer’s Disease
Dr. Michael Farrell would like community members in the Wasatch Back to know the difference between Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive impairment.
The assistant professor of medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine will give a Zoom webinar with Dr. Kelly Woodward, the Intermountain LiVe Well Center’s medical director at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15.
During the event, which is facilitated by the Alzheimer’s Association, the doctors will also address post-diagnosis steps that include dealing with brain-health resources available in the Wasatch Back and how to deal with dementia in its later stages.
Questions will be taken at the end of the presentation, said Farrell, who practices geriatric medicine at the U. Medical Center’s Redstone Clinic.
“I plan to give an overview of Alzheimer’s Disease, because it’s the most common form of dementia,” Farrell said.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and in 2014, more than 5 million people were diagnosed as living with Alzheimer’s, according to a study by the CDC.
The study states Alzheimer’s symptoms can first appear after age 60 and the risk increases with age, but younger people can also get it. It also says the direct cost of treatment is $277 billion per year.
During Thursday’s webinar Farrell will also discuss new research and different therapies that can delay the onset of the disease.
Alzheimer’s is caused by proteins known as beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that are deposited into the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, 20 years before any symptoms show up, he said.
“It’s important to understand this pathology because the newer research is targeting these proteins,” Farrell said. “And if we start directing therapies at an earlier point to patients who might have potential genetic disposition to go down the Alzheimer’s track we may prevent those proteins from even depositing in the first place.”
The result would make Alzheimer’s Disease a thing of the past, according to Farrell.
“That’s why I’m so excited to be in the field of cognitive medicine,” he said. “I will also put in the caveat that even though we’re in the infancy of understanding Alzheimer’s, we are progressing at an exponential rate.”
Throughout his years of research, Farrell has seen society getting a better understanding of the disease.
“Society now understands the importance of getting a correct diagnosis because there are often things we can do to stave off the onset of the disease,” he said. “There are many things we can do in our lives that will promote disease progression or halt it and put it at bay.”
Some things that can increase Alzheimer’s include hypertension, unchecked diabetes, smoking and heavy alcohol use, Farrell said.
“On the contrary, there are evidence-based practices we can do, like aerobic exercise, maintaining social interaction and continued learning, to keep the disease at bay,” he said.
Those practices range from regularly solving Sudoku puzzles to learning a new language, according to Farrell.
“These things are cognitively difficult to do when we get older, but they do delay Alzheimer’s,” he said. “If the onset of the regression of memory impairment was supposed to happen when you’re 80, but you are able to put it off until 90 or older, and you happen to pass away at 89, it will never show up during your life. “
Farrell, whose grandparents passed away due to Alzheimer’s Disease, will also talk about what the community can do to better foster resources for Alzheimer’s patients.
“One of the fastest growing populations on the planet are those people who are older than 80,” he said. “Since we’re living longer, I’m invested in making sure we have a strategy within our politicians, the community and health care systems to address the needs of older adults in the Wasatch Back.”
The Oct. 15 webinar is the first of three that fall under the “Optimizing Brain Health” umbrella, Farrell said.
The next one, Women and Alzheimer’s Disease,” will be held Dec. 8, and feature Dr. Ida B. Crocker-Sabbagh, a family medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas. The time will be announced later.
Crocker-Sabbagh will be joined by Dr. Jessica Caldwell, the director of the clinic’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center.
“More than 1/2 of dementia patients over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s Disease, and 2/3 of Alzheimer’s patients are women,” Farrell said. “Because women live longer than men it’s important to have someone addressing the women’s side of this.
The third presentation, which will be scheduled in February, will feature Dr. Carolina Gutierrez, an internist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Gutierrez will give her presentation in Spanish, and discuss how Alzheimer’s Disease affects the Latino community, Farrell said.
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