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How a family fights the disease every day



Like his mother Virginia O'Brien before him, Greg O'Brien battles Alzheimer's with all his might.

O & # 39; Brian's mother did her best to prevent the disease while caring for the cancer patient. , a husband connected with a wheelchair. And she somehow managed to keep things going until her husband, father of O & # 39; Brian, died of prostate cancer.

It was from watching his mother live with Alzheimer's that enabled O & # 39; Brian to recognize the signs in himself and prompted him to see a neurologist at 59 years of age. Brain scans that reveal Alzheimer's. Shortly after his own diagnosis, both his parents died.

"My mother taught me how to live with Alzheimer's disease," Brian from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, said today. "She fights and fights and fights. She wouldn't give up. She kept telling me, "I can't get sick, I can't get sick."

Now around 70, he's still not giving up.

"It's not for me, it's for the next generation," Brian said of his daily battle with the suffocating disease. "For my children, my granddaughter. We must stop this demon. "

The Alzheimer's Association currently estimates that there are 5.8 million Americans living with the disease and that their number will increase to 1

4 million by 2050.

While Brian waits for a medical breakthrough that may to stop the devastating disease, he has made lifestyle changes that recent studies suggest may at least delay Alzheimer's reduction. Follow a Mediterranean diet and make sure he gets enough sleep. He trains regularly and writes daily, to "restart my brain."

Connor and Greg examined Alexandra Galante / TODAY

Can Alzheimer's Be Delayed?

To Help Daily Life Run Better, Brian, a journalist and writer for 45 years , rests on the habits he has broken off in his profession. With short-term memory torn from the disease, "I'm writing down everything," O'Brien said. He began to do it because "I was worried I'd forget."

Greg O'Brien was the caregiver of her mother Virginia while she had Alzheimer's disease. Alexandra Galante / TODAY

O & # 39; Brian is trying to stay mentally engaged and hopes that his years as a writer will help him in his battle against Alzheimer's progression. The idea is simple, using your brain to build and maintain connections, such as investing money in a bank that you can rely on later.

"Doctors tell me that I work on what they call the cognitive reserve, just like my mother did," Brian says.

While Alzheimer works for Brian's family, he does Just like Virginia O & # 39; Brian was caring for her husband, O & # 39; Brian, Connor, is his father's tutor. After graduating from college, the young man goes home to help

"I've always loved spending time with him," said Conor O & # 39; Brian. "Just everyday you find a way to do it step by step." [1965900] 2] Connor says he doesn't really see the progression in his father, but there are times when he's really home. The day his father didn't know him was "the worst time of my life." [19659002] O'Brien calls Conor the "helm" because he runs it every day.

Brian wants people to realize that Alzheimer's diagnosis does not mean immediate dementia.

"We need to get that out of the closet, so that people should understand that there are still working people who are scared [expletive] and afraid to talk about it because they will lose their job, "he said. "We must try to empower people to talk about strategies, medicines, and nutritional supplements."

However, O'Brien had to accept the limitations that the disease put on his life. Two years ago he gave up driving.

"I have this application, Where's Waldo, that tells people where I am at any time," he says.

Greg calls his office a "memory room". Writing is not easy for Greg, whose short-term memory disappears after 30 seconds. But recording it helps him to remember some things. Alexandra Galante / Today

There are certainly hints that exercise can not only slow down the cognitive decline, but also alter the amount of sticky amyloid protein that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, said Maria Carillo , Chief Scientific Officer at the Alzheimer's Association. These studies were performed in Alzheimer's patients linked to a dominant hereditary gene.

"We still don't know if you can extend it to people with late-onset disease," Carillo says.

And there are animal data from Alzheimer's models suggesting that the course of the disease is changing and that living in an enriched environment can slow the progress of the disease, Carillo says.


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