AUSTIN, Texas — Neurologist Ronald Devere, who runs a memory disorders clinic in Lakeway, believes Alzheimer’s disease has become an epidemic of fear.
“The public, all they hear is that memory loss leads to Alzheimer’s and there’s no treatment,” Devere, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center, said in a recent interview. “My premise is, you need to know the facts.”
Devere has self-published a book, “Memory Loss: Everything You Want to Know But Forget to Ask,” which, he hopes, will enlighten the public. The book covers normal and abnormal memory changes; conditions that can cause memory loss — “many of which are benign and treatable,” he says; potential therapies; and how to get help.
“The glass is half full,” Devere said. “Everybody else approaches it as if it’s empty.”
People who have memory problems, such as losing their keys or forgetting names — behaviors that may or may not indicate a problem — automatically think of Alzheimer’s and are afraid to see a doctor, Devere said. Media reports are partly to blame, as is the national Alzheimer’s Association that “emphasizes no effective treatment, continued decline and then death from the disease,” Devere said.
Memory impairment can be the result of a sleep disorder, thyroid condition or some other problem, Devere’s book says. “If you walk into a family doctor’s office and you come in with a memory problem, the odds of having something to do with Alzheimer’s or something related to Alzheimer’s is probably 65 percent,” he said. “The other 35 percent have nothing to do with Alzheimer’s.”
Devere promotes the notion of early diagnosis of cognitive impairment and believes various therapies, depending on the cause of the memory problems, can slow decline. Therapies can include such medications as Aricept; Cerefolin tablets (combination of B12 and folate); a Mediterranean diet; and 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week.
Dr. Rachelle Doody, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said patients are “undertreated” for memory problems. Although there is no cure or treatment to stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, she said, there are drugs that “not only improve the functioning and cognition of patients in the short term, but they seem to have a lasting effect on helping the person function better than they would without treatment.”
“There’s not a good, uniform approach to management of the disease,” she said. But she agrees with Devere: “There is reason to hope.”