Reporter: Shannon Samson
Web Producer: Kerry Corum
It's estimated that one out of every three American families is affected, in some way, by Alzheimer's disease.
It can be devastating for them to watch a loved one slowly lose the ability to remember and communicate. But researchers may have uncovered a simple way to help. Combining medicine with a very common vitamin, could slow the progression of the disease.
Lou Armstrong is one of the four-million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease. It's been seven years since her diagnosis, but thanks to aggressive treatment with the drug Aricpet, her son Ray and her husband Tom say the last few years have been better than anticipated.
Lou's son Ray says, "He'd (Tom) really hate to see where we would have been if it wasn't for that medication. We feel it's really given them, you know, some extra years of being able to enjoy their friends and travel, and so on."
While medication is partly responsible, researchers now believe that mixing drugs with vitamin E, could help even more.
Dr. David Beversdorf, a neurologist from Ohio State University Medical Center, compared patients over a 3-year period, to see how mixing the drug aricept with vitamin E could slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
Dr. Beversdorf says, "What we found was that the decline at years one, two and three compared to the baseline, was significantly less for our group."
Most Alzheimer's patients are routinely given exams to measure their mental abilities.
In this study, patients treated with a combination of Aricept and vitamin E declined by about one and a half points every year on the annual test, but Dr.Beversdorf says, "The decline in the untreated group was 3.36 points, on the mini-mental state examination. So, it's about two and a half times the decline."
Researchers say they are encouraged by these findings, but they still have many questions. They're now hoping to learn why vitamin E seems to work, and if it will be equally effective for all patients.
Alzheimer's patients and their families need your help for screening, treatment, caregiving programs and research.
You can do that by registering for the Memory Walk, Sunday October 19th at USI. Or call the Alzheimers' Association at 475-1012.