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Alzheimer's Disease

President Ronald Reagan put a public face on a private disease that affects almost 5-million Americans. He lived with Alzheimer's for 10 years and his family raised millions of dollars for research.

News on 6 anchor Terry Hood says while great strides have been made in the last decade, Tulsa doctors say more research is needed.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer's is expected to climb to 15-million over the next twenty years. It's a disease that slowly steals a person's memory. And it can be devastating to not only the patient, but their family.

Eula Beckett started losing her memory four years ago. Her husband, RJ, noticed she was getting forgetful, disoriented and had to look up recipes she usually cooked from memory. They seem like small signs, but Dr Ralph Richter says in Eula's case they pointed towards Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's is the deterioration of cells in the memory part of the brain. There is no cure and patients usually get progressively worse. Eula is lucky, she was diagnosed early on. And with the help of experimental medication her doctors have been able to keep the disease from spreading.

But Dr Richter says Alzheimer's research still has a long way to go. "We will certainly reach a stage of therapy where we will be able to recognize those who will develop the illness and have drugs available that will prevent the disease, we're not there yet."

Dr Richter is spearheading research to try to slow the progress of Alzheimer's. But for now early diagnosis is very important in managing the disease.
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