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Remember: June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

More than a half million people in Tennessee are living with Alzheimer's or caring for someone who is. (Smantha Ing/
More than a half million people in Tennessee are living with Alzheimer's or caring for someone who is. (Smantha Ing/
June 6, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - As many as half a million Tennesseans are living with Alzheimer's or caring for someone who is, but advocates say it's been at least 10 years since a new drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and released for public use.

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month, and advocates are underscoring the importance of advancing the treatment of the disease.

Kay Watson-Helton is director of communication and development for Alzheimer's Tennessee.

"We really haven't had a new treatment come on the market in well over a decade," she says. "And so that is something that we are certainly advocating for and supporting research that we hope will help us identify a treatment that will at least help prevent the disease."

Watson-Helton says their research indicates that if a drug is developed that will help prevent or delay symptoms of the disease, the number of people living with it would be decreased by half.

Three drugs are currently in phase 3 of clinical trials, and four medications are available now.

Alzheimer's Tennessee raises money for the illness that specifically benefits people of this state.

Watson-Helton says every person living with Alzheimer's is surrounded by at least four people who help them live with the disease.

For people who haven't experienced its impact, she says the effects are far-reaching.

"Basically what's happening is the brain is dying, and as that happens, it affects everything about us," says Watson-Helton. "It affects our memories, it affects our speech, it affects our ability to function, it affects our sense of smell. And so all of these things, when you put them together, it really is everything about us."

Warning signs include memory loss, disorientation, struggling to complete familiar actions, poor judgment and mood swings.

Ways to head off Alzheimer's include eating healthy, getting regular exercise, engaging your brain and staying socially connected.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN