In January 2015, Brian was at work when something unusual happened. He suddenly felt as if he had blacked out or fallen asleep. For the next six months this sensation continued and went from once a day to multiple times every hour. He thought his bouts of blanking out would be helped by changing his sleeping habits or drinking more caffeine, but nothing seemed to work.
Around that time, Brian's fiancée became increasingly concerned about his memory issues. In July of 2015, at age 54, he began a series of tests – neurological and cognitive battery tests, PET scans, MRIs and lumbar punctures. All of his test results indicated a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer's disease - the most common form of dementia - causes loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. It accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. And 5.4 million Americans have this disease. Up to five percent of people with Alzheimer’s have early-onset.
Before the diagnosis, Brian was an avid runner and full-time professional. After the diagnosis, no longer able to work, he was forced to retire. Earlier in his career, Brian worked as a counselor; he came to realize a lot of different psychological effects the disease was having on his well-being. As Brian describes it:
“This disease attacks your motivation and energy.” Some days he wanted “to sit on the couch and do nothing.”
Brian fought those urges and pushed forward to find a new purpose. Just one year after his initial diagnosis, Brian decided he needed to help others like him and raise public awareness of the disease. Brian is helping those diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and their families by providing his insight and perspective on how to find hope and purpose in the midst of the disease through his blog, http://withalzmyheart.com.
Brian has hope that someday there will be a cure, but knows that he needs to advocate for greater awareness, research and understanding while he still has the ability to do so. Innovative research is more important than ever. Alzheimer’s disease is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. By 2050, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's is projected to grow to between 11 and 16 million. And of the medicines researched for Alzheimer's, just one in 34 have historically gone to market. But researchers know that breakthroughs are built on setbacks.
Delivering a new medicine that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years could reduce the number of people with the disease by approximately 40 percent and save the health care system avoid $367 billion a year by 2050. With 77 potential new treatments in clinical trials, biopharmaceutical research companies are rising to the challenge presented by Alzheimer's.