Healthy Living: Lewy Body Dementia - Northern Michigan's News Leader

Healthy Living: Lewy Body Dementia

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More than 1 million Americans face a devastating disease that affects balance and destroys memory.

For the first time, researchers are studying treatments for people with Lewy Body Dementia.

Michael O'leary has always been an athlete in triathlons and paddle board races, but just last year, he fell while playing in the U.S open pickle ball championships and his new bride noticed other changes.

"It would almost appear like I were … had been drinking when I really wasn't,” said O'Leary.

His balance, memory and speech were getting worse. They finally got the devastating diagnosis; Michael had Lewy Body Dementia.

"We estimate there are approximately 1.3 million Americans who have Lewy Body Dementia," said Dr. James Galvin from Florida Atlantic University

Doctor James Galvin says this disease causes neurological symptoms due to a buildup of protein in the brain called lewy bodies.

"First there has to be a dementia, that is a progressive change in cognitive abilities, slow movement, balance problems and rigidity or stiffness,” said Galvin.

Another hallmark of the disease, patients see things that aren't really there.

"The hallucinations typically are very well formed of either little people or furry animals,” said Galvin.

"He would jump out of bed, thought somebody was chasing us, he'd run into the sliding glass doors,” said Cindy O'Leary Michael's Wife

Now, for the first time, researchers at Florida Atlantic University are studying a drug that would support memory by increasing chemicals in the brains of L-B-D patients.

"The more that's around, the more likely you are to form a new memory,” said Galvin.

Michael enrolled in the study and has been fitted for a specialized sports wheelchair, so he can continue playing pickle ball.

"I can't wait to get on the court more,” said O'Leary

Michael is facing this disease the way he does all challenges, head on!

Michael just had the honor of carrying the American flag at the 2017 U.S open pickle ball championships where he was the only wheelchair athlete to compete!    

Doctors are currently enrolling L-B-D patients for a sleep disorder study. Those interested can call 800-501-0684 to find the nearest doctor, or click here