Dr. Debra Boyd-Kimball Presents at LINC Luncheon

April 17, 2013

ALLIANCE, Ohio — Dr. Debra Boyd-Kimball, associate professor of chemistry and director of the University of Mount Union’s Honors Program, presented Alzheimer’s Disease: The Case for Science at the final LINC Luncheon of the academic year on Tuesday, April 16.

During her presentation, Boyd-Kimball discussed the science surrounding Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia. First identified in 1906, the disease has been lacking in research until as recently as 30 years ago when doctors and scientists began exploring it more in-depth. There is currently no known cause, cure or prevention for Alzheimer’s disease.

An estimated one in eight people over age 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2050 it is estimated that 15-16 million people will have the illness.

Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include memory loss, confusion with time and place, misplacing things, poor or decreased judgment and withdrawal from social activities. Occurrence of these symptoms over a sustained period of time can indicate presence of the disease.

Research indicates that the brain changes accompanying Alzheimer’s disease may begin as soon as 20 years before symptoms can be detected.

In the onset of the disease, memory loss often occurs, along with shrinkage of the brain and difficulty recalling recent events and learning new tasks. Once specific plaques and tangles occur in various brain regions, speech and the ability to understand speech diminishes. Understanding of spatial order decreases in this stage and the affected person’s behavior and personality often changes. In the latest stage of Alzheimer’s disease, many lose the ability to communicate and care for themselves.

Risks of Alzheimer’s disease include advancing age (it’s generally see after age 65), family history, gender (women are more susceptible than men), race/ethnicity (African Americans and Hispanics are more susceptible than Caucasians), cardiovascular disease risk factors, mental and social engagement and head trauma or traumatic head injury.

“We can influence lifestyle factors,” said Boyd-Kimball. “Exercise, as well as mental and social activity, can be controlled in order to help prevent the disease.”

While Alzheimer’s disease can be transferred genetically, less than 1% of Alzheimer’s cases are caused from genetic mutations. However, inheriting any one of the three known genetic mutations causing the disease guarantees an individual will develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in all American age groups and the fifth leading cause in those 65 and older.

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