Center Aims to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Demetrius “Jim” Maraganore

Is there a way to actually delay the onset or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other related brain disorders? The experts at NorthShore’s new Center for Brain Health say yes, there is. Physicians are seeing patients to not only treat debilitating brain diseases, but increasingly get ahead of those disorders with individual risk assessments and personalized prevention plans.

This proactive therapy movement is led by Demetrius “Jim” M. Maraganore, MD, Ruth Cain Ruggles Chairman of the Department of Neurology and Medical Director of NorthShore Neurological Institute. At the Center, patients may elect to receive genetic testing and advanced diagnostics while specialists key in on lifestyle and medical factors to better predict and protect against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a disorder associated with repeated concussions.

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“The Center for Brain Health is translating observational studies and clinical research trials into clinical practice,” said Dr. Maraganore. He cites a recent clinical trial that demonstrated that even in elderly patients, lifestyle interventions can improve brain function and prevent decline, impairment and disability. “There’s a paradigm shift in neurology from treating brain disease to improving brain health,” he added.

Standing to benefit from this innovative approach are an estimated five million Americans who have Alzheimer’s (a number expected to double by 2030). In addition, about one million Americans have Parkinson’s and an increasing number of veterans and athletes are being diagnosed with CTE.

Philanthropy has been essential to advancing the Center, with donations supporting neurological research and the development of diagnostic tools, as well as collaborations with other researchers and visits by distinguished international faculty. This innovative Center provides new research and an emerging care model that could benefit from philanthropic support.

NorthShore’s team of specialists at the Center include neurologists, dietitians, exercise specialists, lifestyle coaches and a deep bench of experts in several related areas. The Center also is home to a neuro-research team to ensure that the evaluation and management of patients are truly leading edge and always evidence-based. Patients can refer themselves to the Center if they are concerned about mental decline, if they have identified risk factors by taking the Brain Health Quiz or if they have a family history of brain disorders. Patients can also request a referral from their NorthShore primary care physician.

At the first visit, specialists evaluate a patient’s brain health and risk factors. Blood tests and other diagnostic evaluations (for example, brain imaging and neuropsychological testing) may be recommended. A personalized risk factor profile is generated based on patient-reported lifestyle and behavioral measures, clinical assessments and diagnostic tests. The team at the Center then develops a patient-centered plan to reduce the risk of possible neurodegenerative diseases.

“We help patients stay on track with their brain health plan through regular follow-up visits, annual check-ups and monitoring of risk factors, and we make sure their lifestyle adjustments are working for them,” said Anne Marie Fosnacht, Senior Clinical Research Associate in NorthShore’s Department of Neurology.

Learn more about brain health by visiting northshore.org/brainhealth. If you’d like to support the Center’s research, please contact John Hanson, PhD, Director of Philanthropy, jhanson@northshore.org, or call 224.364.7208. 

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