KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — June 28, 2022, marked five years since the death of legendary University of Tennessee Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt. Since then, awareness of early-onset Alzheimer’s has increased. 

“After providing unwavering Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias care to the East Tennessee region for many years, The University of Tennessee Medical Center joined with The Pat Summitt Foundation in 2014 to enhance care provided to our community and create The Pat Summitt Clinic.”

The Pat Summitt Clinic

The Pat Summitt Clinic at the University of Tennessee was Summitt’s dream. She battled early-onset Alzheimer’s to the very end.

“Certainly having someone of Pat Summitt’s stature, having the experience of this particular disorder certainly raises awareness in our community. And I think our primary care colleagues are more and more cognizant of reviewing that as a potential issue for their older patients.”

Dr. Bruce LeForce is a neurologist who provides Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia care at the clinic. 

“We do a clinical evaluation and history and standard physical examination. We use imaging studies, MRI and PET scans, some laboratory studies that we can do like spinal fluid, or now there’s even a blood test that we can use to screen people for Alzheimer’s disease,” said LeForce.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but there are ways to reduce risk factors.

“So, we certainly know that staying physically active is a means of at least slowing down any further decline in cognitive abilities. So a walking program or riding a stationary bicycle, these sorts of things. So physical activity to maintaining good cognitive activity, reading, doing puzzles, crosswords, word search, Sudoku, whatever people like to do in that way,” said LeForce.

It’s also important to maintain social relationships, something as simple as holding conversations stimulates the brain.

“The more we are, we are active and interactive that really helps to stave off memory difficulties down the road,” said LeForce.

Also, rest. Studies are showing getting enough sleep can also help in the fight against the disease.

If you are concerned about memory loss, Le’Force recommends going to your primary care physician first for a screening to determine if scheduling an appointment at The Pat Summitt Clinic is necessary.