JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Alzheimer's is a disease that effects five million Americans. There's no cure, but there's research to identify the risk factors and possible ways to prevent the onset of the disease.
Jessica Buckner was just 12 when her mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Her mom was just 51 at the time.
"Even though she was forgetting things, it was like she didn't forget who her family was," said Buckner.
She realizes now that that was one of the biggest blessings. She wanted to push it all aside, as a teen trying to live a normal live. But living in a small town made it tough.
"They would ask how's your mom doing and it was like, she's doing OK," noted Buckner. "And it was really hard to just be like well it's fine but it's not really fine. She's much worse than she was doing last week when you asked."
Buckner now works with the Alzheimer's Association and tries to help others realize there are resources to help you navigate caring for someone with the disease.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center's MIND Center is working to find ways it could be prevented or slowed down.
"There's not going to be a silver bullet to treat Alzheimer's or dementia," explained Chief of Operations Denise Lafferty. "It's really going to need to be a multi-faceted approach."
From head to toe, they're looking for potential clues and warning signs that will help pinpoint the causes sooner. One study is looking at the nerve innervation in the eyes as a possible predictor for the development of Alzheimer's or dementia.
Another upcoming study will focus on the gut.
"Correlation between bacterial inflammation in the digestive tract and the development of cognitive decline," added Lafferty.
And they'll soon recruit 4,000 aging Mississippians to be a part of a joint research project with the Mayo Clinic.
"Our goal is to look for predictors or bio-markers for the development of the diseases," said Lafferty. "And also ways that we can stave off developing them."