(ANKENY, Iowa) — About five million Americans have Alzheimer's. The disease, which is characterized by a loss of metal ability and memory, is the sixth leading cause of death in Iowa, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
A metro woman fights to find a cure for the disease that took her mom at a young age.
Irish Van Lin doesn't have much to worry about. But, the 4-year-old's mom has a lot on her mind.
"Everyday I look at her, and I continue to fight to try to find a cure," Heather Van Lin said.
Van Lin's mom Barbara Nevitt was diagnosed with Early On Set Alzheimer's at 57. She lived with the disease that leads to a decline in mental function for about six years. "She lost her ability to speak early on, and it was very difficult for me, and the rest of the family, to just not be able to communicate with her," Van Lin said.
Heather knows she's at risk and has become an advocate for the Alzheimer's Association in Iowa. This spring she traveled to Washington D.C. with 1,200 other representatives from around the country. "It was a bucket list item for me. I really wanted to be able to go and use my voice in D.C. and have people truly listen and they are," Van Lin said.
The group lobbied lawmakers to pass an act to help caregivers of those with Alzheimer's and devote millions more to help find a cure. They are hopeful lawmakers will take action. "We could see another $300 million in research going to NIH just for Alzheimer's cure, which is enormous. We've never had that amount given to the Alzheimer's Association and the disease," Van Lin said.
Van Lin says she spends about 20-40 hours a month volunteering for the association to raise awareness. Now, she's gearing up for the walk that takes place at the Iowa Capitol this September. "It's a great day, a really awesome day to be at the Capitol." Van Lin said.
This will be the fifth year for her "Team Every Step." She hopes to rally 40 friends and family to join her this year in memory of her mom.
"I know she's proud of us. I know she's proud of us," Van Lin said.
The Walk to End Alzheimer's is Saturday, September 19. The walk kick-off is Thursday, July 16 at the Fire Creek Restaurant in West Des Moines. You can find more information on the Alzheimer's Association's website.
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