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'Go Purple' campaign will light up O.C.

If you notice more purple than usual around Orange County, you might be seeing part of the “Go Purple” campaign, designed to bring awareness to the issue of Alzheimer’s disease.
Go Purple OC runs Monday through Sept. 21 and was created to raise awareness of the most common form of dementia.

Among the buildings slated to “go purple” with special purple lighting: the rocket ship at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana; Chapman University’s Memorial Hall, Beckman Hall and the Piazza Fountain in Orange; the Newport Beach Civic Center Bunnies; and the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center.

“We have aligned with a whole host of mayors, business owners, athletes to raise awareness and kick off our walk season,” said Lisa Willard, vice president of operations for the Orange County chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Aaron Kushner and Eric Spitz, co-owners of the Orange County Register and Freedom Communications, are among the “champions” designated by the association as helping with the fight.

“Eric Spitz and I are honored to personally participate in the Go Purple campaign, and we invite the community to do so by attending the upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s events in Orange County,” Kushner said in a statement. “Growing numbers of individuals and families are affected by this disease, so we are hopeful the community will respond by increasing its support of Alzheimer’s Association Orange County and its goals to raise funds, advance research and increase awareness of prevention programs.”

The Orange County chapter estimates it will serve more than 22,000 people this year and that the number will climb to 168,000 by 2024.

Along with a helpline, at 800-272-3900, the county chapter provides care planning, caregiver support groups and education for the community. There are also early memory loss support groups and a breakfast club for people with memory loss.

According to the national Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

Those statistics could be improved with better diagnoses, testing and exercise, according to memory disorder specialist Dr. William Shankle, the Judy & Richard Voltmer Endowed Chair in Memory and Cognitive Disorders at Hoag Hospital.

Shankle said work underway at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute’s Orange County Vital Brain Aging Program has shown that the disease can be delayed, or even halted, by a process of early diagnosis, followed by brain exercises and lifestyle changes.

“This is the culmination of three years spent with a scientific consortium to develop a road map to prevent Alzheimer’s by 2025,” Shankle said.

If people over 50 were evaluated annually by their doctors for risk factors, including lifestyle and taking a simple memory test that could be given online, Shankle estimates, early diagnosis could delay onset of the active disease by 33 percent to 60 percent.

Recent studies revealed that once diagnosed, people with early memory loss can take action to halt further damage and prevent getting full-blown Alzheimer’s, Shankle said. “The more brain exercises you do, the better,” he said. “Research shows that creative activity activates more brain circuits than any other. Connections in your brain grow like muscles.”