FLORHAM PARK, NJ — This fall, the Alzheimer’s Association Greater New Jersey Chapter (AAGNJ) will launch five Walk To End Alzheimer’s events throughout the Garden State. Thousands of New Jerseyans will join in this venture who walk in memory of their mothers, fathers, grandparents, and loved ones—more than 2,300 lost last year alone—from Alzheimer’s Disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in New Jersey.

They also walk for the men and women living with Alzheimer’s in New Jersey, which includes nearly 180,000 people aged 65 and older, along with the 453,000 caregivers working tirelessly to support them. They walk for the more than 5.7-million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and as many as 16 million who will have the disease by 2050. They walk in search of the first survivor of Alzheimer’s disease. They walk in search of a cure. They walk to be part of the change. 

According to AAGNJ, change will come through research, and change will come through advocacy.

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As a catalyst and convener, the Alzheimer’s Association unites the world’s leading researchers annually at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), which is the world’s largest and most influential international meeting dedicated to advancing dementia science.

Cheryl Ricci-Francione, executive director of AAGNJ, recently attended this year’s conference, held at Chicago’s McCormick Conference Center, in order to gain insight on how much impact each dollar really has on the organization’s mission to end Alzheimer’s and support those living with it.

In attendance this year were more than 5,200 of the world’s leading basic science and clinical researchers, next-generation investigators, clinicians and members of the care research community from more than 60 countries—making it the largest AAIC ever held in North America.

According to Ricci-Francione, some of the prominent themes in the research discoveries shared this year included:

  • The impact of women’s reproductive history and dementia risk;
  • First-ever dementia data in LGBT seniors;
  • Preliminary successes in treating non-cognitive symptoms of dementia; and
  • New and promising clinical trials data showing positive results that may help prevent or delay onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms.

She also reported a groundbreaking study that was released at the event, which she said has significant impact on Alzheimer's and dementia research.

For the first time, a large, randomized clinical trial, SPRINT MIND, has demonstrated a significant reduction in the risk for developing cognitive decline and dementia. The new research results show aggressive treatment of high blood pressure (targeting a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120 mm Hg) reduces risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and the combined risk of MCI and dementia.

“These findings are exciting because they show—more conclusively than ever before—that there are steps that can be taken, especially regarding cardiovascular disease risk factors, to reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment,” said Ricci-Francione. “The future of dementia prevention could be in treating the whole person—with a combination of drugs and modifiable lifestyle changes—as is now done for cardiovascular disease.”

Largely through the efforts of Alzheimer’s Association advocates nationwide, and the support of their bi-partisan champions in Congress, funding for Alzheimer’s research at the NIH has quadrupled in recent years. However, U.S. Alzheimer's research funding still receives less than what leading experts say is required to meet the primary goal of the U.S. National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease: to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer's by 2025.

Greater New Jersey Walks for Change.

The AAGNJ Walks To End Alzheimer’s events will be held on Sept. 9 at Horseshoe Lake Park in Succasunna; Sept. 23 at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Ewing; Sept. 29 at the South Mountain Reservation in West Orange; Oct. 14 at Overpeck Park in Ridgefield Park; and Oct. 20 at Bradley Beach Boardwalk in Bradley Beach.

The Walk To End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Participants also learn more about Alzheimer's disease, advocacy opportunities, clinical studies enrollment and support programs and services. Walk participants honor those affected by Alzheimer's disease with the poignant Promise Garden ceremony.

“Every step forward strengthens the Alzheimer’s Association vision of a world without Alzheimer’s,” said Ricci-Francione. “Every stride forward brings us closer to achieving that goal. Together, we can raise awareness and funds to enhance Alzheimer’s care and support, and advance critical research. Please register to walk with us at alz.org/njwalk.

The new AAGNJ headquarters is located at 23 Vreeland Road, Suite 105, in Florham Park. For more information, to volunteer with AAGNJ, or to become a sponsor of an upcoming walk, call the local office at 973-437-3931 or visit www.alz.org/nj