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New developments in medicine offer hope on Alzheimer’s disease

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference offered the latest on treatment and detection and a narrowed view of Alzheimer’s prevalence in the U.S.

PORTLAND, Ore. — When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease there’s a lot of hope on the horizon.

Every year Alzheimer’s researchers from across the globe get together for the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference to share what they’ve learned in the fight to treat and cure the disease.

In July, nearly 8,000 were part of this year’s conference in Amsterdam.

“We have now entered what we are calling the era of treatment, we have drugs on the market now that are helping with Alzheimer's disease, not just the symptoms, but the disease itself, and that is phenomenal,” said the Alzheimer's Association Oregon and Southwest Washington Chapter Director Lori Stanton.

The conference highlighted some significant steps toward treatments and detection, including a new gene editing treatment that’s showing promise in reducing the impact and risk of the disease.

Another major topic has to do with detection. A simple finger prick blood test may detect Alzheimer’s disease in the doctor’s office or even at home. The blood test was more than 85% accurate in identifying Alzheimer’s-related changes in the study.

“I have to say this was one of my more exciting moments, was learning about this blood test. So, it does seem like it's getting much closer to fruition,” Stanton said. “We could just take the test at home, like we wouldn't even have to be in a clinic. So that part was really exciting to me because that makes it accessible, and then more and more people can have access to these treatments and diagnoses."

Another big takeaway from the conference this year is that for the first time, we’re getting a look at the impact Alzheimer’s disease has on a county level.

“The reason that it's significant is because it's going to help us to really allocate our resources to where the need is a little bit more,” Stanton said.

Oregon is seeing a much higher prevalence in rural counties where populations tend to average older.

Sherman County was at the top at 11.7%. That’s higher than surrounding areas like Wasco County at 10.4% and 9.7%  in Morrow County.

Rounding out the top three are Grant County at 11.1% and Union at 11%.

Oregon’s most populous counties, Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas are around 10%.

This new view of the prevalence of the disease helps the Alzheimer’s Association know where they need more volunteers, programs, and support.

“But then it also tells our elected officials. Hey, there are more people in these areas that are going to need things like respite funding, who are going to need to have caregivers in these areas. So, how are we going to address those issues?” Stanton said.  

For more information and local resources visit alz.org/orswwa.

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