Monument Valley in Arizona

This issue of the Barrow Quarterly is devoted exclusively to Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia, neurologic conditions that commonly afflict the older population. We believe that our readers will find these articles quite timely, since many of the diseases featured have become major health care issues worldwide. Dr. Patricio Reyes, who recently joined Barrow as Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Disorders Program and Karstein Solheim Dementia Research Chair, graciously agreed to serve as guest editor for this issue, bringing together articles on the clinical course, diagnosis, and treatment of dementia. We welcome Dr. Reyes to Barrow and look forward to many years of productive research and excellent clinical care that he will help bring to patients with these degenerative diseases.

Robert F. Spetzler, MD

For many decades, society emphasized the need to prolong life at all cost and devoted most medical resources to the young. This approach was bolstered by the fatalistic attitude of many medical professionals and scientists, who held the view that Alzheimer’s disease and similar degenerative diseases of the nervous system are untreatable because they are normal consequences of advancing age. While our population aged and individuals lived longer due to more sophisticated medical technology, our health care leaders overlooked the necessity of investigating the physiological and pathological aspects of aging. Particularly in the West, the number of late middle-aged and older individuals has soared and will continue to rise out of proportion to birth rate and younger groups. Our failure to establish normative values for older patients and to investigate factors that influence normal aging has rendered many health care professionals unprepared to meet the needs of older patients—those most vulnerable to many systemic and debilitating neurologic conditions. Recently, heightened awareness of such medical entities has led to a surge in clinical and basic science investigations that have greatly improved our understanding and management of previously untreatable disorders.

It is essential that recent changes in our demographics are seriously considered whenever we attempt to develop national and local health care programs. Health care professionals must be well acquainted with cultural differences as well as with normal and pathological changes that occur among various age groups. Knowledge of these subjects will be critical if we are to help ensure healthy and happy lives for older patients.

Patricio F. Reyes, MD
Guest Editor