Tampa, Florida -- The biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease is one you can do nothing to prevent -- your age. But you can develop it in your 40s and 50s, and women develop it more often than men.
Jill Smith, assistant director of clinical research at USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute in Tampa, says, "You're talking about a population that thought old age was going to be the golden years and one of the most devastating things they can hear is that they have cancer or Alzheimer's disease."
There are less than a half-dozen medications to treat the disease that robs victims of their memory but not of the medications can stop the disease.
Current Alzheimer's medications:
Smith adds, "We have not come up with any new medications in nearly a decade and we have nothing to combat this disease with."
What's worse is that Alzheimer's disease can kill. Smith says, "The body will completely shut down. Systems will shut down -- respiratory, digestive and so forth. You need assistance through hospice to keep going."
Smith says every 68 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with the disease.
Risk factors for Alzheimer's:
Smith says there is hope though which is why they've been doing free community memory screenings for the last few years for early diagnosis. But now they're rolling out a mobile unit with 400 square feet of space and four of five staff members on board to take their search for better treatments straight to the community.
The mobile unit will be set up at local places of worship and store parking lots for 2 or 3 days to encourage people to not only get screened but to participate in clinical trials to help develop better treatments. The mobile unit is expected to hit the road in July or August. Click here for the locations and dates which will be posted soon.
Smith says, "We realize that clinical trials are crucial to finding the answer to how we can stop this epidemic that it's become. This is the only possible answer - nothing else can stop or cure Alzheimer's disease and we realize that we need to get clinic research done faster so we can get better treatments available for everyone."