• Understanding the Risk Factors and Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease-0

Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. For Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month, we spoke to Bay Medical Sacred Heart family medicine and geriatric physician Alan Woolery, DO, PhD, about spreading awareness of this disease. “Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of Americans and is expected to increase rapidly,” shares Dr. Woolery. “That is why we need to spread awareness of the warning signs and how individuals can prevent it.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. “It is one of the few diseases we still do not have an effective treatment or cure available to our patients,” says Dr. Woolery. “There are a few medicines we can use that will hopefully maintain our patient’s current state and stall them from getting worse, but it will not cure them. Our overall goal is to diagnose patients earlier on, so they can start the necessary medications. If patients are in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, these medications will not work as efficiently.”

So what are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s? “The symptoms I see most often have to do with the patient’s executive functions,” says Dr. Woolery. “These can include:

- Getting lost while driving to a familiar place such as home

- Not being able to balance your checkbook anymore

- Losing your sense of smell recognition (unable to identify common smells)

- Sleep disturbance

- Anxiety for no reason

Most of the time, family members or spouses will notice these symptoms. The patient with Alzheimer’s typically does not notice the progression of symptoms themselves.” Although Alzheimer’s is proven to be genetic, there are preventative measures you can take. “There are 2 or 3 genetic tests we can do to see if you are at risk due to your genetics. From there, we see what risk factors we can modify. Although genetics cannot be changed, there are other risk factors that we can change. What I like to call the ‘Big 3’ are three lifestyle changes you can make, which include:

  1. Control your blood pressure
  2. Control your blood sugar (if you are diabetic)
  3. Stop smoking

These three health issues impact the progression of Alzheimer’s more than anything else. Secondary preventative measures I recommend are staying active and social. Research has proven that as far as risk factors, loneliness is equivalent to smoking. I also recommend mental games to stimulate the brain and also a healthy diet.”

Dr. Woolery has been practicing geriatric medicine for 25 years and has been working at Bay Medical Sacred Heart’s Family Practice for a year. “Geriatric medicine interested me because back then, not a lot of people were practicing it,” he shares. “Everyone was treated the same way no matter his or her age. I enjoy treating my patients and hearing their stories. Overall I am very passionate about spreading awareness of Alzheimer’s for research purposes and so more people are aware of the effects of it. The disease is not a light switch, it's a gradual process. Because of this, early recognition of symptoms is very important. so it is important to recognize the symptoms.”

To learn more about Dr. Woolery, please click here. To schedule an appointment with him, please call 850-770-3270.