Panel to explore risk factors, management and challenges of Alzheimer’s disease

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) finalized its decision to cover the controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm earlier this month — delighting critics and disappointing many patients and advocates. (Check out Kerry Dooley Young’s three key tips for reporting on this controversial topic.) 

This decision also leaves researchers still working to find a viable treatment for this neurodegenerative disease — which affects an estimated 6.5 million people 65 and older — about 1 in 9 in the U.S. By 2050, that number may grow to 12.7 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or cure Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The changes in brain proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is only one piece of the puzzle. We know that other factors including the neighborhoods we live in and racial and ethnic disparities may also affect cognition later in life. What can we do to mitigate these life-long risks, and how can people with the disease and their families live the fullest lives possible without viable treatments or a cure? How can reporters even begin to sort through the myriad press releases that tout this or that “promising” clinical trial and put them in proper context without giving people false hope?

Experts will answer the above questions and provide additional insight on this topic during the “No silver bullet: the complicated facts about Alzheimer’s” panel on Saturday, April 30 at 10:40 a.m. at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin.

Elizabeth Muñoz, Ph.D., an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the Cognition, Health, and Aging Team, will explain how contextual factors across the lifespan influence cognitive health in midlife and older adulthood.

Robin Hilsabeck, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at The University of Texas (UT) at Austin Dell Medical School and director of the Comprehensive Memory Center at UT Health Austin Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences, will talk about a multidisciplinary approach to care that supports people suffering from the disease and their family members. One of her goals is to identify cognitive disorders early so that appropriate interventions can be implemented and people can remain active within their homes and communities as long as possible.

And Judy George, a senior staff writer for MedPage Today, who covers neurology and neuroscience news for the publication, will offer insight into how reporters can make sense of the ongoing stream of press information, clinical studies, and external noise to determine whether that “promising” study is really all it’s cracked up to be, and what the future might hold for Alzheimer’s research.

Don’t miss this enlightening session on Saturday, April 30, at 10:40 a.m. CT.

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