What do we study?
Although our research covers an entire spectrum of brain diseases, our primary focus is on dementia and empowering individuals, families, and communities to achieve their optimal brain capacity. Dementia is defined as a loss of memory and brain function severe enough to significantly impair someone’s life. This disease is an overall category that encompasses many more specific diseases. Think of dementia in terms of cancer: cancer is the overall category, and within that category you have dozens of different kinds of cancer. Some of the more common or well-known types of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease comprises 60-80 percent of all dementia1, so this is where the most significant portion of our research is focused. Did you know that people with fewer years of formal education are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s? For a great majority of those at risk this has very little to do with a person’s genetics, and it has everything to do with their lifestyle, community, and health choices because of their education.
Typical brain research focuses on a single facet; for example, the interaction of a specific drug with brain cells. Our approach is multifaceted: we want to explore how a patient’s genetics, epigenetics, environment, home, community, lifestyle, and diet all play into the development or prevention of these brain diseases.
Why is this important?
This wholistic approach is very effective; unfortunately, it isn’t the type of research that is typically funded through grants. This is why we established this non profit organization: to partner with individuals at the community level to accomplish the research needed to improve the overall brain health of our communities.
One aspect of this initiative is education. Let’s take strokes, for example. Patients can often recover completely from strokes if they reach the hospital in time. Knowing when a stroke has occurred is essential to this. We’ve created an “Act FAST” handout, which is a simple brochure that allows virtually anyone to diagnose the major symptoms of a stroke. This is one example of an educational resource needed at the community level; we’ve created an entire page on this site to providing educational resources to community members.
The impact of brain health is substantial. It is estimated that 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s alone2. This number is difficult to confirm because approximately half of all people living with Alzheimer’s do not have a formal diagnosis from a doctor3. This is another reason why community education is so important, and why our work is essential.
The problem isn’t just substantial – it’s growing. The likelihood of dementia, strokes, and other brain conditions increases significantly once a person reaches the age of 654. The first years of the Baby Boomer generation turned 65 in 2011; over the next 30 years, we will likely see an overwhelming increase in degenerative brain conditions unless we act now. Today, someone develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds5. By mid-century, that will decrease to one person every 33 seconds5.
What can be done?
Education is the first step, and that is why we’ve created a number of resources you can use to reach those around you. Research is a key second step; we need to better understand these diseases, how they develop, and what we can do to stop them. In order to accomplish that research, we need volunteers and funding, so we’ve created a mobilization page that allows you to further our project by volunteering your time and a donation page where you can contribute to the research. We’ve structured donations in such a way that you can choose to contribute to any focused aspect of the project; for example, if you want to contribute to community education, or lab research, or clinical trials – all of these are available to you.
Our research focuses on community, and that’s where we want to be. Will you join our community so we can help make yours better?
- Alzheimer’s Association, 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 10(2): 6.
- Hebert LE, Weuve J, Scherr PA, Evans DA. Alzheimer disease in the United States (2010-2050) estimated using the 2010 Census. Neurology 2013;80(19):1778–83.
- Boustani M, Peterson B, Hanson L, Harris R, Lohr KN. Screening for dementia in primary care: A summary of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med 2003;138(11):927–37.
- Alzheimer’s Association, 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 10(2): 9.
- Hebert LE, Beckett LA, Scherr PA, Evans DA. Annual incidence of Alzheimer disease in the United States projected to the years 2000 through 2050. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord 2001;15(4):169–73.