Elder Patton and Cynthia Davis/CDU with Dr. Keith Black
Offers prevention tips for higher risk African American community
Your mom forgets her keys—more often than you care to remember. She repeats things to you as if it is new information. You wonder, but are afraid to speak it aloud: “Is Mom getting Alzheimer’s disease?”
World-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Keith L. Black, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, warns of what he believes is a coming Alzheimer’s disease tsunami. He was asked to address a largely African American audience convened by collaboration between Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) and Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles.
This is what he predicts:
“The amount of money we currently spend taking care of those with Alzheimer’s disease in the US alone is $200 billion a year. To put this in perspective, how much do you think we spend on cancer? About $59 billion. And what about heart disease? About $153 billion. Currently, we are spending more money on Alzheimer’s disease than anything else.
“And that number is set to increase dramatically to over a trillion dollars a year because the number of people getting Alzheimer’s disease is increasing as we live longer.
“As African Americans, this is a real problem for us … our chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease is twice that of the general population. Scientific evidence does not suggest it is because of our genetics. It is the cause of medical conditions we are not getting treated for– like high blood pressure–one of the highest risk factors of dementia with aging. If your blood pressure is high not only are you are at risk of getting cardiovascular disease, your risk of becoming demented goes up significantly.
“If you are diabetic you have a much higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some of us believe that Alzheimer’s disease might be a Type III diabetes. You don’t have to be diabetic to have it, but there is a clear correlation between risk factors.” So, eating less processed sugar, managing and maintaining proper weight, and regular exercise… things you hear about that can decrease your risk of getting diabetes, can also decrease your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Black also said that all of the risk factors that you’ve learned about that increase your risk of getting diabetes can also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. By the time you start forgetting the keys, it may be decades too late.
Dr. Black gave the facts plain to the more than 700 people who gathered to see him at CCC. But he also gave hope.
As a leading neurosurgeon, Dr. Black was already intimately involved with the brain, which he calls “the most incredible structure that I know of in the universe.” But he said a brain tumor can cause six months of pain and suffering while Alzheimer’s disease can last a decade or more. That fact, is why Americans are paying more for Alzheimer’s care over cancer and heart disease.
“I’m supposed to be this brilliant neurosurgeon,” said Dr. Keith L. Black. “But I watched my mother suffer from Alzheimer’s and I was powerless.” He said he is now focusing on saving his grandchildren’s generation in order to get ahead of the disease.
As frightening as the onslaught of Alzheimer’s disease can be, Dr. Black is excited about his research. “Dr. Konrad Talbot, one of our researchers at Cedars-Sinai has a very unique research model which involves patients with Alzheimer’s disease who agree to donate their brains for research when they die. He will get their brains within 6 hours of death and cut them in little slices while the brain cells are still alive,” said Dr. Black. “What he’s found is that about 8o% of brain cells in patients with Alzheimer’s are actually resistant to insulin. We all think of insulin as being needed to prevent us from having diabetes, but in the brain, brain cells need insulin in order to survive. So if these bad proteins are building up in the brain …they may be causing our brain cells to become resistant to insulin, just like our cells outside of the brain are resistant to insulin when we get diabetes. But, when brain cells are resistant to insulin, they die,” Dr. Black said. The good news is that a lifestyle change can interrupt the onslaught of Alzheimer’s and save countless lives.
Alzheimer’s disease may be incurable, but simply adopting a healthy, balanced lifestyle can help keep your brain healthy far longer. Here are Dr. Black’s tips for better brain health:
Dr. Black’s message is so compelling that the event joint organizers, CDU Prof. Cynthia Davis and CCC’s Alzheimer’s Ministry Director, Elder Robert Bolden, are hoping more will view this lecture. To get the DVD call 323-565-4271 or visit www.faithdome.org.
For more medical lectures from CDU visit www. cdrewu.edu.www.cdrewu.edu