Alzheimer’s looking like a mix of genes and lifestyle

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20 Under 40: JenniferDessoye

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Dr. Jennifer Dessoye is assistant professor of occupational therapy at Misericordia University and owner of Bright Beginnings Early Learning Academy (BBELA). Discontent with the early education curriculum and understanding of human development and neurolo (read more)

20 Under 40: Amy Hlavaty Belcher

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Amy Hlavaty Belcher, 39, owner and artistic director of Abrabesque Academy of Dancing, believes that for those who have been given much, much is expected. “I just try hard to do my best,” she said. I have been blessed with many opportunities and many gift (read more)

20 Under 40: Christopher Hetro

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Chris Hetro, 33, works hard and plays hard. “A strong work ethic is important, but finding balance outside of work is important because life is too short and you need to enjoy it,” he explained. As an electrical engineer and project manager at Borton-Laws (read more)

20 Under 40: C. David Pedri

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For attorney C. David Pedri, 37, it’s all about a combination of qualities that contribute to success. “My philosophy is simple: be open and honest, treat people the way you would want to be treated, with respect, and work hard to attain your dreams. The (read more)

20 Under 40: Ed Frable

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Ed Frable, 28, believes “if I work hard and stick to my word, good things will happen. My crew will not be deterred. We will re-evaluate our game plan and not give up until the job is complete,” explained Frable, the owner/operator of Ed Frable Constructi (read more)

20 Under 40: William H. Bender II

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William H. Bender II, CFP, CIMA, CRPC, loves what he does. “I’m lucky. I come to work every day excited to help the people and institutions we work with,” explained Bender, 34, first vice president at Bender Wealth Management Group, Merrill Lynch. The fam (read more)

20 Under 40: Angelo Venditti

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Angelo Venditti, 38, heard a call to the helping professions early on. Geisinger Northeast’s chief nursing officer answer was to volunteer for his local fire company. After high school, he became a paramedic, then enrolled in nursing school. Three years a (read more)

20 Under 40: Donald Mammano

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At 20, Donald Mammano began his own company, while attending the University of Scranton. Mammano, now 33, and president of DFM Properties, recalls, as a youngster, holding a flashlight while his father fixed the kitchen sink. “From that point on I was fas (read more)

20 Under 40: William J. Fennie III

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William J. Fennie III, 27, is always knocking on the proverbial door, because he knows one day, one will open. As an investment specialist with Integrated Capital Management (iCM) he cannot take “no” for an answer. “I make cold calls every day to invite f (read more)

20 Under 40: Marcus Magyar

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As an advisor at CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, Marcus N. Magyar, CFP, 30, provides comprehensive wealth management and investment portfolio services to business owners, executives, families and high-net worth individuals. His multi-disciplinary team of pro (read more)

20 Under 40: Heather Davis

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Heather M. Davis, 33, director of marketing and communication, is responsible for creating, overseeing and implementing a strategic marketing and comprehensive communications plan for The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC). She is also responsible for pr (read more)

20 Under 40: Alexandria Duffney

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Alexandria Duffney, 30, is competitive by nature and loves a good challenge. These qualities have led her to her position as associate director of graduate admission at Wilkes University. Here she works with prospective students interested in enrolling in (read more)

20 Under 40: John Culkin

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John Culkin’s tenets inform: “Less haste equal more speed; the same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg, it is all about what you are made of, not the circumstances surrounding you; and don’t ask someone to walk a mile in your shoes, bef (read more)

20 Under 40: Conor O'Brien

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“What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it,” mused Conor O’Brien.” As co-founder and executive director of the Scranton Fringe Festival, O’Brien, 25, is responsible for leading the development of the overal (read more)

20 Under 40: Jessica Siegfried

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Jessica Siegfried, 38, is senior designer with BlackOut Design Inc., where she is responsible for all creative design at the full-service agency, from traditional branding and print to collateral and front end web design. “I’ve always had an interest in t (read more)

20 Under 40: David Johns

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David Johns’ career path has been shaped by his diverse experiences. As director of structural engineering at Greenman-Pedersen Inc., Moosic, Johns, 39, ensures that his engineering and consultant teams provide clients with their best effort. “We complete (read more)

20 Under 40: Robyn Jones

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Robyn Jones, 38, president of ReferLocal LLC, has learned just as many lessons from her business successes as she’s had from her failures — and she believes it’s important to share that knowledge with her employees. After graduating from American Universi (read more)

20 Under 40: Nisha Arora

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Nisha Arora, 36, tries to be the best version of herself every day. As general counsel for ERA One Source Realty Inc., she realized she cannot control other’s behavior so “I try to focus on myself and how I can be better,” she explained. Arora’s responsib (read more)

20 Under 40: Justin Sandy

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Starting at a young age in Hazleton, Justin C. Sandy, 33, found a passion for running. He became a member then a coach for Misericordia University’s cross country and track and field programs. “It was at Misericordia that I also garnered the profound sati (read more)

20 Under 40: Dr. Ariane Conaboy

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As a doctor of internal medicine at Physicians Health Alliance, Dr. Ariane M. Conaboy, 34, realizes the importance of human life and how fragile it can be at times. Conaboy graduated from Scranton Prep and the University of Scranton with a double major in (read more)

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Value of inherited Caddy is dubious

Q: I am now the owner of a 1978 Cadillac Seville Grand Opera Coupe. This was my grandmother’s car and one of a few hundred made of this model. It is not running, but I believe that is due to it sitting. It is all original and has very few miles. What is t (read more)

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Glen Finney, MD, Neurology, Geisinger Medical Center, GMC, Danville, GWV, Wilkes-Barre

By Dave Gardner

As medical science strives for a game-changing breakthrough, families across the nation are in a battle against exploding care costs and heartbreak resulting from various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Care for the victims of Alzheimer’s is placing a tremendous financial burden upon the already stressed Medicare and Medicaid systems. The specific cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients in the nation, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, was estimated to be $236 billion in 2016, and may rise to a crippling $1.1 trillion by 2050.

The deadly consequences of Alzheimer’s are also mounting. The Centers for Disease Control reports a 55 percent increase in deaths resulting from the disease, with no family or individual immune to the affliction.

Other staggering data reported by the Alzheimer’s Association indicates that at least five million Americans are now afflicted with the disease. This total is expected to increase to a potential 16 million by 2050.

Scientists generally agree that obesity, a lack of physical activity, decreases in intellectual exercise, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes and an overall poor diet all contribute to Alzheimer’s risk. These are all manageable, although certain inherited gene variations may also play a role.

EARLY ONSET?

Glen Finney, M.D., director of the Geisinger Health System’s Aging Brain and Behavioral Neurology department, explained that Alzheimer’s can actually begin when a person enters his or her 40s. Data also indicates that by their mid-80s, up to half of the population will battle some sort of dementia-related cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s onset actually creates an ongoing physical degeneration of the brain, while vascular forms of dementia deprive the brain of blood producing cognitive difficulties. A third form of dementia and brain destruction, recently in sports news, involves repeated head trauma.

“Primary care is usually where the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s occurs,” said Dr. Finney. “For Alzheimer’s, the greatest risk is generated by living long enough for the disease to occur.”

According to Dr. Finney, studies clearly suggest sociability can be a vital tool to curb the onset of Alzheimer’s. Withdrawal from social activities with an entrance into isolation increases risk, while the inverse of keeping the brain engaged and intellectually active produces benefits for people of all ages.

“Social activity and intellectual exercise clearly benefit the brain, and even online exercise can reduce cognitive declines,” said Dr. Finney. “But, these must involve more than just a crossword puzzle.”

Vascular dementia is also a big problem for physicians, and Dr. Finney often recommends the Mediterranean-Dash Intervention diet for these patients. This is a modified medical nutritional system that allows limited red meat, fried foods, cheeses and sugars, but emphasizes brain-healthy foods including greens, vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and potentially wine.

DRUG CONNECTIONS?

With Americans liberally using alcohol and recreational drugs, questions have surfaced about connections between these and the onset of Alzheimer’s. Dr. Finney commented that marijuana and alcohol use in adolescents has been proven to cause brain damage, but it is unknown if these substances play a role in the later onset of Alzheimer’s.

“However, recreational drugs and the elderly are a particularly bad combination,” said Dr. Finney. “They impair thinking, add to aging side-effects, and overall spell trouble.”

At the heart of science’s roadblock in the treatment of Alzheimer’s lies the reality that mankind does not understand how complex electrical activity between brain cells creates consciousness. Alzheimer’s actually causes a progressive death of brain tissue, and although the brain can regrow some cells this ability is limited, and “re-connecting” brain cells to create a functional neuro network still is not possible.

“The fundamental process of thought will eventually be understood,” said Dr. Finney. “A huge breakthrough will occur.”

According to a study associated with the National Academy of Sciences and reported by CNN, new hope is on the horizon in the difficult task of diagnosing Alzheimer’s. An experimental blood test that can accurately diagnose the disease and potentially other degenerative brain disorders has been developed, with relevant data indicating the test can reveal Alzheimer’s patients with up to 86 percent sensitivity and specificity.

This would contrast with the current situation, in which most Alzheimer’s diagnoses are made by a primary care physician utilizing different types of mental status exams. Only a microscopic study of brain cells after a patient’s death, such as is the case with former NFL players suffering from trauma-induced dementia, can produce direct evidence of brain tissue loss.

DNA CONNECTIONS?

Vithalbhai Dhaduk, M.D., an independent NEPA neurologist, is in complete agreement that many of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s can be controlled. These include blood pressure problems, diabetes, heart and vascular disease issues, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking and sedentary behavior.

However, he is also quick to point out that genes which are inherited as part of a family genetic history conclusively raise the risk for an early onset of dementia. Several medications are currently in use to slow or even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, but no effective treatment or cure exists to stop the destruction of the brain.

Dr. Dhaduk agrees that, to really tip the balance with dementia-related illness, science is in need of a big breakthrough that will create fundamental changes to the way physicians approach care for dementia.

“It is very important to understand that Alzheimer’s is very hard on the patient’s caregivers, and right now there is no cure on the horizon,” said Dr. Dhaduk. “This is a terrible disease that dissolves both the minds of people and their family.”

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