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Dear Dr. Cory:

My great-aunt has Alzheimer's disease and she forgets all the time. For example, she always misplaces her money and other important things. Then she thinks people have been stealing from her.

I'm really worried about her. I don't know whether or not I should tell her about Alzheimer's disease. Please help me because we are really close. I don't think anyone else has told her about her disease.

Sarah Silver Seneca, South Carolina

Dear Sarah:

About four million Americans over the age of sixty-five have Alzheimer's disease. People with this disease have problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. The disease gradually makes these problems worse. Research is being done to learn more about Alzheimer's and the best way to treat it. Some medications can be helpful for a while, but there is no cure for Alzheimer's at present.

You might want to discuss your concern with your family. Your great-aunt may have been told about her disease, but because of the disease's effects, has since forgotten the conversation.

The Alzheimer's Association has several publications available, written especially to help children better understand this disease. For more information, call the association's national toll free number: 1800-272-3900.

Memory loss can have many different causes that need to be ruled out before diagnosing someone as having Alzheimer's disease. There is now a urine test available to help diagnose Alzheimer's. The AD7C test, produced by Nymox Pharmaceutical Corporation, measures the level of a protein produced in the brain. People with Alzheimer's produce more of this protein.

Dear Dr. Cory:

I love playing softball, but every time I run I start breathing really heavy. It's really hard for me to breathe. If I rest, I still breathe heavily. I breathe that way until I take a drink. What should I do?

Samantha Strobel Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Dear Samantha:

If you are not used to running, your lungs, heart, and muscles are probably out of shape. When you exercise regularly, your heart and lungs become stronger, allowing you to breathe more easily. If you don't want to have shortness of breath while playing a sport, you're going to have to build your cardiovascular strength.

Start out slow. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you are jogging. If you are out of breath, it generally means you have started too fast. Slow down or walk until you catch your breath. Try jogging twice around a running track once or twice a week until it gets easier. Then you can gradually increase your speed and your distance.

Be sure to do warm-up exercises to help avoid injuries. Remember to cool down after you run to help avoid soreness. Drink plenty of fluids, especially in hot weather. You might try running with a friend to make it more fun.

Some people have difficulty breathing when participating in sports because they have exercise-induced asthma. They run out of breath quickly because they are not able to get as much air in and out of their lungs due to narrowed breathing tubes. People with exercise-induced asthma can still exercise. They just learn to control their asthma with medication. A visit to your family physician will help you learn if you have this common condition.

See you next issue!

Your friend,

Cory SerVaas, M.D.
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Publication:Children's Digest
Date:Mar 1, 2000
Next Article:Around the Clock.

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