Parker: Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

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State Rep. Tan Parker

by State Representative Tan Parker

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month that creates 30 days committed to raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

Far too often, brain health is left off the healthy check-up list throughout our lives, but it is truly the critical part of our entire well-being at any age.  Therefore, during this month of national recognition, I hope to share valuable information so that you can become better educated about the changes to our brains and why proactive health measures make a difference.

It is common to associate changes in brain health to our older years, but it is truly a health matter to be aware of much earlier in life.  Alzheimer’s is certainly one of the most recognized advanced degenerative brain diseases. It affects our cognitive functions and emotions that are frequently associated with memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, social withdrawal, and depression. Formally named in 1906, today Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death within the United States.  My own personal political hero, President Ronald Reagan, battled Alzheimer’s for nearly a decade.

Although there is no known cure, the benefits of early diagnosis are vast including emotional and social support, the opportunity for clinical trial participation and the ability to more accurately plan for the future.  Early diagnosis can lead to lowering financial costs for medical treatment and better prepare the patient and family in managing the disease.  While it is easy to dismiss early warning signs or feel uncomfortable about asking if a loved one is struggling, there are resources available.  The Alzheimer’s Association, a national non-profit dedicated to awareness and treatment, offers valuable resources including 6 simple tips to approach the conversation when a situation becomes worrisome.  Most of us do not plan on having brain health issues, but because they are so prevalent, learning about preventive measures and when it is appropriate to seek medical help is certainly not wasted knowledge.

Even if you never have to personally deal with the impact of Alzheimer’s, it is a disease that touches all of us in some capacity.  The cost alone to American society in 2018 is an estimated $277 billion including $186 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments.  Without a cure or some way to slow this disease, Alzheimer’s is projected to cost more than $1.1 trillion in about 30 years.

But increasing costs fail to compare to the difficulty the one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is facing.  That is why we must not only be proactive in taking care of our brain health, but work to be committed to finding cures and other ways to lessen the burden.

While your Texas Legislature will not reconvene until January 2019, the Texas House Committee on Public Health is currently studying treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia. On April 19th, the Committee heard testimony from experts within hospitals, universities, and many other organizations regarding the most up-to-date research as well as the future of this disease. The testimony that was provided will help lay the foundation for future Alzheimer’s legislation. My hope is that Texas will be on the forefront of finding a cure.

I am proud that Texas is a leader in medical innovation and has taken bold steps to empower patients and their families.  In 2015, I was honored to be a leading advocate for Texas’ Right to Try legislation that was passed into law.  A majority of other states have also taken action, and the U.S. Congress has sent Right to Try legislation to the desk of our President to sign into federal law. Right to Try provides the terminally ill with treatment options that have not been FDA approved but are poised to be possible avenues of hope.

During Texas’ last legislative session in 2017, I was also honored to author and pass HB 810/Charlie’s Law, that allows for the first time in the United States patients suffering from chronic disease and terminal illness to access the lifesaving benefits that adult stem cells can provide.  This is just another reason why early diagnosis and awareness is so critical because it opens up opportunities for clinical trial participation that is absolutely essential in this fight.  Though the research with Alzheimer’s and adult stem cell therapy is still relativity in the early stages, the prospects have shown to be promising.

Brain health is essential to our lives at any age.  And when we are more aware of its significance to our longevity and work to protect it, we will certainly increase our chances for a better life.  I urge you to take the time to research this topic more thoroughly, and look at the research that ranges from how brain injuries early in life might influence degeneration to how we can best protect ourselves and those we love.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives. If you would like to share a thought, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or email[email protected].

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