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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As the 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer’s approaches on October 23rd, new details are being released from this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

Faye McDaniel, Michaelle Statham’s grandmother. Photo provided by Michaelle Statham.

“She was losing things, which was unlike her; she was not remembering conversations,” said Michaelle Statham, who remembers her grandmother fondly.

Faye McDaniel was once one of the 67,000 Oklahomans currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

“I had just had my second child and she came to visit, and she said, ‘So, are you going to get to take some time off with your baby?’ and I said, ‘Yes, actually, I get to take about three months off with my child.’ She said, ‘That’s nice,’ and I said, ‘Yes, it is.’ And we chatted for awhile and then she said, “So, are you going to get to take time off with the baby?” Michaelle says, looking back on the conversation with her grandmother from a porch swing, which first told her something was wrong.

Researchers learn more about the fatal disease every year.

Faye and John McDaniel as newlyweds. Photo provided by Michaelle Statham.

Michaelle details the many findings that came out of this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

The latest data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts the world’s current 50 million Alzheimer’s cases will triple globally by the year 2050.

“I think it is terrifying,” Michaelle says. “They’re estimating about 152 million people in the world by 2050.”

While nearly tripling worldwide, here in the United States, cases are projected to double by that time to 12.7 million, primarily due to age.

“Sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Africa, and the Middle East – they were projected to have some of the highest increases. A lot of that was due to an aging population,” she says.

Age is the number one cause of the disease, but a new finding from the conference suggests poor air quality is another factor.

“There were several studies, they’re looking at air pollutants – traffic and other particulate matter from maybe manufacturing and things as such. And it turns out that those have a negative effect on your brain, and that they are shown to have some link to an increased rate of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

Faye and John McDaniel at their 50th wedding anniversary. Photo provided by Michaelle Statham.

From pollutants to COVID-19, researchers from 40 different countries are also studying the long-term cognitive dysfunction that the virus could have in older adults.

“So, people who have actually been hospitalized with COVID-19, they see some biological changes in the makeup of the brain, so there’s some real concern there. And specifically, if people have had the smell loss with their COVID-19, then we’re seeing lingering symptoms of brain fog and confusion and forgetfulness,” Michaelle says.

As far as new treatments go, Aducanumab will be available soon to reportedly slow the progression in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

“That has been shown to reduce some of the plaque in the brain, that’s a major cause of Alzheimer’s,” she said. “As well as anti-inflammatory treatments that they’re looking at, there is also neuro-protection and regenerative types of treatment. And so, can we protect the nerves so they don’t break down, or can we regenerate those nerves?” Michaelle says.

Faye McDaniel, photo provided by Michaelle Statham.

No one can change factors like aging, genes and family history, but things you can change include stopping smoking and vaping, getting physical activity, staying engaged in society, keeping your brain actively learning and maintaining a healthy diet.

“What’s good for the heart, is good for the brain,” Michaelle says.

For now, there is no surgery or magic pill to stop the disease in its tracks, but there is this…

“There is always hope.”

This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Saturday, October 23rd in Oklahoma City at the new location of Scissortail Park.