BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Just two games shy of 1,100 wins, Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt turns in her whistle. The reason: early onset Alzheimer’s. Summitt is just 59 years old.

Pat Warren has more on the likelihood of younger people developing the disease.

As awareness grows, so does detection. And more people under the age of 60 are being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.

Pat Summitt is retiring.

“You have to find the time that you think is the right time and that is now,” she said.

To be 59 years old, active and diagnosed with Alzheimer’s sends shockwaves through the middle-aged.

The Chief of Neurology at Mercy Medical Center says genetics is a factor.

“If it’s very young, the answer is ‘yes,’ it’s genetic. If your parent has Alzheimer’s disease, then you have an increased risk of having Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Michael Sellman said.

The difficulty for most people is distinguishing between normal forgetfulness and a serious condition.

“They’re worried that they have Alzheimer’s disease because they’re forgetting things and they want to know if it’s abnormal or normal for their age and it causes a great deal of anxiety among many, many patients,” Sellman explained.

But it’s not always the patient who knows.

“In my experience, more often than not friends or family members who are very concerned bring the patient in to the doctor saying, ‘He’s not thinking correctly, his memory is not normal,’ and the patient themselves frequently doesn’t recognize that,” Sellman said.

One way you can help your brain is to work it.

“You want to do something active with your brain. Reading, learning, thinking is to be encouraged as opposed to just doing something passive,” Sellman said.

But as in Summitt’s case, this disease defies age, activity, and unfortunately, a cure.

There’s lot of helpful information available through the Alzheimer’s Association. An estimated 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease.


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