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Health Watch: College Coach Diagnosed With Early Onset Dementia

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stephanie-web Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt has revealed that she’s suffering with early onset dementia. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more.

Coach Summitt is 50-years-old. Experts say it’s rare to have the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease at that age. It’s more common in people over the age of 65.

Pat Summitt, Basketball Coach at the University of Tennessee, says she started having difficulty remembering plays last season.

“Earlier this year the doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed me with an early on set dementia, Alzheimer’s type at the age of 59,” said Summitt. She’s won eight National Championships. Summitt says she will continue to coach, and rely on her assistants.

“It gets worse and worse as the natural course of the disease,” said Dr. Mijail Serruya, a Neurologist at Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience. He says Alzheimer’s tends to run in families, and with an early diagnosis medications can help, but it’s difficult to predict how the mind robbing disease will progress.

“One thing we know is a big predictor of how people will deal with the dementia process is their education level and their mental activity and engagement,” said Dr. Serruya.

Keeping your brain working is protective, coaching basketball games or working crossword puzzles.

While it can strike anyone, diet and exercise are some of the best ways to guard against Alzheimer’s.

“If people aerobically exercise, until they are out of breath and sweaty, three times a week, for 30 minutes at a time, that’s the most evidence that’s really going to protect the brain,” said Dr. Serruya.

Symptoms of early stage Alzheimer’s include being forgetful, getting lost, and repeating yourself on a regular basis. It’s diagnosed mainly with cognitive testing and imaging.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24 hour Helpline if you have any questions about the disease. The number to call is 800-272-3900.

RELATED LINKS:

Early Onset Dementia Information – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers/AZ00009 and
http://www.alz.org/national/documents/report_earlyonset_summary.pdf
Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter – http://www.alz.org/desjsepa/

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

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