“Still Alice” portrays the devastating experience of early onset Alzheimer’s in a 56 year old bright, youthful, Columbia linguistics professor, played by Julianne Moore. Moore won the 2015 Academy Award for “Best Actress” in her role based on the best-selling book of the same name. We tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease as an inevitable part of our aging process. Yet, through the brilliant lens of “Still Alice,” we now know that younger-onset affects people under 65. Up to 5% of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s have younger-onset, and two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease are women.[i] We need to find a cure for this ravaging disease.
People overwhelmingly state that Alzheimer’s is their #1 fear. And for good reason, with over 5.3 million Americans that have the disease, those numbers are expected to triple by 2050.[ii] It is the only disease in the top 10 without a treatment to cure, to prevent, or slow its progression. As if that weren’t enough, the stigma attached to those afflicted with Alzheimer’s is great. As Alice discovers in the movie, that for cancer patients, you get to wear a pretty pink ribbon on your shirt where it’s worn like a badge of courage. With Alzheimer’s, patients often feel a sense of shame, isolation and rejection. Why are we still waiting for significant progress in this 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.? Hope is on the horizon but real solutions can’t come soon enough.
Today, modern technology is playing a key role to aid in fighting the onset of Alzheimer’s. According to George Vradenburg, Chairman of USAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease[iii], researchers recently started to gain insights on diagnoses and treatments by using Big Data to gather genetic, imaging, and even sensor data on entire populations. The goal is to analyze the data so we can discover what makes Alzheimer’s tick and then beat it. Before this, research consisted of a small number of labs that would publish a finite number of results months or years later. Although creative technology testing is still in the early stages, the simple fact that experts are now working collectively as a global community, finding a cure for brain diseases is gaining momentum.
Some memory loss is part of life but if it impedes the daily life of you or a loved one, please see a doctor. Awareness and early detection of Alzheimer’s or another dementia are the keys to getting early intervention. And, with cutting edge research increasing around the world, real answers can’t be far behind. “Still Alice” sheds a new light on a very dark corner of our lives so that hopefully someday soon, we’re no longer still waiting.
To find out more about 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, read here. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp
Vradenburg (2015, April 29) Re: Probing the Realities of Big Data in Alzheimer’s, http://huffingtonpost.com/george-vradenburg/probing-the-realities-of-big-data-in-alzheimers_b_7170218.html