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Could this clinical trial cut risk of dementia?

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Every 66 seconds someone in the United States is diagnosed with the most common type of dementia: Alzheimer’s disease. It also kills more people than breast and prostate cancers combined. A Florida scientist says a third of dementia cases can be prevented.

Dennis and Jo Battistella know each other about as well as two people can.

“We’ve been married for 37 years. We met down here in a bowling alley,” Jo said.

They also know what they don’t know, or can’t remember.

“We’re both at the age where we know we both forgot things and have issues with memory,” Dennis said.

Alzheimer’s disease runs in both of their families. So when a clinical trial to cut a person’s dementia risk was announced, they both jumped at the chance. 

“If you look at all the things we know that may be associated with the risk of developing dementia, the two strongest are age and family history, and I can’t change your age and I can’t change your genes,” said Dr. James Galvin, director of Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University. 

Galvin believes he might be able to change how quickly your brain ages. That’s what the dementia prevention initiative is designed to do. Volunteers are given personalized prevention plans tailored to their respective risks. Each plan may include physical therapy, dietary changes, and even psychotherapy. The trial just began a few months ago.

“We see reduction in sugar profiles. We see reductions in inflammatory markers,” Galvin said.

Studies have linked high blood sugar and inflammation to dementia. So the reduction in both is good news for the 60-something Battistellas. 

“You feel more confident now. Don’t worry about things as much as far as memory lapses,” Dennis said.  

They can expect "to live a long, happy life together” Jo said.

“And my plan all along was to at least be 90, so maybe 100 now,” Dennis said. 

Even though patients are reporting positive results early in the trial, more research needs to be conducted to see the long-term effects. Nationally, if Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders were delayed by just five years, there would be over 5 million fewer cases 25 years later, saving $367 billion.