Valley researchers say progress is being made in the fight against Alzheimer's

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

When it comes to curing Alzheimer's disease, the research is constant, but the progress is slow.

However, some of the top researchers in the world are right here in the Valley, and they say we're just a few years away from possibly slowing down the disease.

"I'm a perpetual optimist and I keep saying any day now," says Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, director of the Alzheimer's and Memory division at Barrow's Neurological Institute.

He is one of the top Alzheimer's researchers in the world and says real progress on treating this disease is being made.

"I expect to be stopping the disease or slowing it down within three years," he says.

To get there, researchers need to continue clinical trials, many of which are taking place right here in the Valley.

And the focus is now clearly shifting from finding ways to treat the disease to preventing it altogether.

"Changes in the brain start 20 to 25 years before the first day of forgetfulness so the dementia is actually the end of the disease, not the beginning of it," he explains.

Dr. Sabbagh says that's why it's so important to do what you can to prevent this on your end as well. Things you can do include getting regular exercise, keeping your mind stimulated with brain games getting out of your comfort zone and of course watching what you eat.

"We have a very high saturated fat diet in the United States, and we need to reduce that," he said.

Following the Mediterranean diet can also help. That diet includes things like olive oil, legumes, whole grains, fish and even a little bit of red wine.

We had to ask about how the brain is related to the gut.

"Gut health in connection with brain health," he says. "It turns out the gut is a very powerful organ in our body and it has its own immune system."

Experts say 14 million Americans will have Alzheimer's by 2050, and the cost to care for those people will skyrocket.

"This is a trillion dollar disease," he says. "This is the disease that bankrupts medicare."

Dr.Sabbagh says the time to act and get involved is now.

"We can't wait for someone else to do the research, we need all hands on deck, we need people engaged, we need people to come to Barrow and be a part of our studies. That's how we're going to advance the field."

Dr. Sabbagh says curing the disease is much further away, but Arizona is leading the charge to do that as well.

If you'd like more information on getting involved in an Alzheimer's study, call 602-406-7165.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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