Shelburne, Vermont - November 24, 2008
Harvey Ottinger is a creature of habit; from playing racquetball, to reading the newspaper, it's a routine he sticks to every day in order to keep things familiar. The 79-year-old was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment two years ago, a precursor to Alzheimer's disease.
"For a day or so, I was kind of down, but I just said I'm going to fight this as much as I can," Ottinger says.
Ottinger says his wife actually noticed a change in his memory and urged him to get a memory screening.
"Long-term memory is excellent, short-term memory is where I have my problems. I can remember a lot of all the old times I had, other things I can forget," he explains.
Ottinger is not alone. Researchers say adults over the age of 80 have a one in four chance of developing Alzheimer's disease.
"Alzheimer's disease research is kind of breaking into new directions," says Dr. Paul Newhouse, of the University of Vermont.
Newhouse is currently conducting several studies on Alzheimer's disease, including looking at hormones and new drugs.
"We want to be able to see if we can enhance the effect of currently existing treatments and kind of get more bang for the buck," Newhouse explains.
Experts say there are warning signs folks should look out for.
"If someone's memory has notably changed even if they're not that impaired yet, but if you've noticed a change then that is a warning sign that they need to be assessed," Newhouse says.
Dr. Newhouse admits we are a long way from a cure but believes the preliminary results from the studies are promising.
"I'm actually more optimistic than if you had interviewed me two years ago," he says.
Harvey Ottinger has made some changes in his life since his diagnosis. He is not as spontaneous as he used to be, but he remains hopeful about his future.
"If they have a concentrated effort we can do anything and they will find a cure," Ottinger says.
Beth Parent - WCAX News
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