Belardo of Lansing, Kan., spent most of his career in
the U.S. Public Health Service. He worked on the front
lines of disasters in such places as Haiti, Colombia,
Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. At home with his
three kids and wife, Elaine, heíd always been
unfailingly reliable, so when he forgot their wedding
anniversary two years in a row, they both started to
recognized something wasnít right and pretty much
attributed it to being overworked and tired,"
the symptoms grew. Last year, when Jose was 50, he got
an evaluation at the Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center that included a battery of cognitive
tests and an amyloid PET scan of his brain. The scan
detects beta-amyloid plaques ó sticky clumps of
protein fragments that tend to build up particularly in
the brains of people with Alzheimerís disease (though
some healthy older adults have these plaques, too).
said his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimerís disease
came as an inconvenient shock. Still, he and his wife
said they believe it is better to have a diagnosis than
not. Jose said he is determined not to let the shock of
the diagnosis distract him from living a full life.
got responsibilities, man. I canít go away," Jose
said. "Iíve got kids. Iíve got graduations
coming up. Iíve got all this stuff coming up. Iím
not going to let Alzheimerís take that away from me.
Thatís for sure."
prospect of having Alzheimerís can be so scary, and
the current treatment options so few, that many people
dismiss memory problems or other symptoms rather than
investigate them, say Alzheimerís specialists; itís
estimated that as many as half of all cases arenít
that may soon change. Researchers are making progress in
measuring beta-amyloid and other Alzheimerís
biomarkers in blood that might eventually be able to
reliably, inexpensively and non-invasively identify the
disease years before cognitive symptoms develop.