A recent bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, September 28th, that includes funding to help Alzheimer’s and dementia research. This appropriations “minibus” bill includes a whopping $425 million increase and was initially suggested by the National Institutes of Health. If signed into law, the total annual budget for Alzheimer’s and dementia research would be $2.3 billion in 2019. The Senate has already approved its own version of the bill, so now it just remains for the executive office to sign off. According to the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement President and CEO Harry Johns,
“Today’s action by the U.S. House and the recent action by the Senate reflect broad, bipartisan commitment to decisively address one of our nation’s highest-impact public health issues through research. This is the fourth consecutive year of increases in Alzheimer’s research funding at the NIH.”
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America President and CEO Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. expressed his gratitude to the federal government for recognizing the importance of funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia related research. According to the organization, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Annually, the disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that Alzheimer’s will impair roughly 14 million Americans by 2050. The legislation also includes Department of Defense and Education appropriations for fiscal year 2019.
“The National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease calls for a cure or disease-modifying treatment by 2025, and this funding gets us on a viable path toward putting this goal within the realm of possible. Maintaining the status quo when it comes to Alzheimer’s is not an option.”
Republican Senator Roy Blunt is the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor for the Health and Human Services. The chairman has advocated for the passage of a version of this bill in the House of Representatives since its earliest drafts.
“Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America and, without a breakthrough, by 2050 we’ll spend $1.1 trillion treating people with Alzheimer’s each year — twice as much as the annual defense budget. This bill not only meets, but surpasses the $2 billion research goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease.”
This bill comes as part of a larger $854 billion “minibus” bill that was passed 85-7 and plays into the overall fiscal budget for 2019. The specifics of the bill include:
- $39.1 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health
- $562 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
- $3.7 billion for programs to address opioid abuse
- $445 million for charter schools
- $15.9 billion Title I Grants for local education agencies
- $1.2 billion for Title IV-A Student Supports and Academic Enrichment Grants
- $160 million for apprenticeship grants
Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult to detect in early life and its effects on the brain begin to show up years before an individual starts exhibiting severe memory impairment. Research into Alzheimer’s and dementia is important because it provides us with earlier detection signals that can increase the chances of stopping or slowing down its progress in the brain.
What Causes Alzheimer's?
It is unknown exactly why some people are more prone to the buildup of plaques and tangles, but there are a number of risk factors that we know correlate.
Older age is the greatest known risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease. We know that most individuals with the disease are those that are sixty five and older.
The next greatest predictor is whether the disease is present in your family history. Those with relatives that have Alzheimer's are most at risk for developing the disease later on in life.
Unsurprisingly, the next strongest link for the disease is related to head injuries. Anything that could seriously affect the brain, usually sudden blunt trauma, can cause this.
How Does Alzheimer’s Harm You?
Alzheimer’s disease is a not a disease that kills you outright, but rather, the disease destroys nerve connections in the brain. Complications resulting from the decline in brain function are what lead to death. For example, not being able to swallow correctly could lead to aspiration pneumonia, one of the most common causes of death from Alzheimer’s disease. This is when food or liquid goes down the windpipe instead of the esophagus and causes damage to the lungs, resulting in pneumonia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of deaths from complications from Alzheimer’s disease could be as high as 5 to 6 times higher than what the CDC is reporting.
The most accurate method of diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease is to consult with a medical professional. There is no specialty for diagnosing this disease, but is recommended to seek out specialists in the field of the mind, such as neurologists, psychiatrists, or psychologists. The most common signs to look for are:
- Memory Loss That Interrupts Daily Life
- Challenges With Reasoning and Problem Solving
- Confusion With Time and Place
- Problems Speaking Coherently
- Misplacing Items Often
- Sudden Changes in Mood or Personality
- Poor Judgement
With early detection, you can seek out treatment options, such as finding an assisted living facility that offers memory care. You can also explore other treatment options that may provide some relief of symptoms. In order to continue living independently, you may also want to consider an independent living facility or a home care worker.