CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - People across the U.S. have admired Pat Summitt's strength and courage on the basketball court for decades.
Summitt won more than 1,000 wins as a coach, and at times seemed unstoppable. But in 2011, she announced her Younger-Onset Alzheimer's diagnosis.
"Having younger people come out and expose their diagnosis, number one, is very brave," said Brian Appleby, MD, Geriatric Psychiatrist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. "It helps the cause a tremendous amount."
Summitt stepped down as head coach at the University of Tennessee in 2012. She then set her sights on her fight against Alzheimer's, a disease doctors say is tough to detect and even harder to treat.
There is no cure for the chronic disease.
"Alzheimer's is something we're all at risk for because the number one risk factor is age, and that's something we're all doing every second," Appleby said. "We have some medications for Alzheimer's, but they mainly just treat symptoms and slow progression."
Appleby said Alzheimer's starts in the brain years before people see symptoms. According to the Alzheimer's Association, the 10 early signs and symptoms include:
-Memory loss that disrupts daily life
-Challenges in planning or solving problems
-Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
-Confusion with time or place
-Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
-New problems with words in speaking or writing
-Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
-Decreased or poor judgment
-Withdrawal from work or social activities
-Changes in mood and personality
Doctors say staying socially and mentally fit may help prevent Alzheimer's.
"Alzheimer's is a lot like cancer. Sometimes people get the illness because of random chance and there is no good explanation," Appleby said.
Alzheimer's affects about 5 million people. About 200,000 of those cases are younger-onset. Before her passing, Summitt launched The Pat Summit Foundation. The foundation researches the disease, educates people, and works to find a cure.
To speak to someone at the Brain Health and Memory Center at University Hospitals call 216-464-6412.
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