Providence man finds hope in nation-wide Alzheimer’s study

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE)– Two Rhode Island hospitals are participating in a nationwide Alzheimer’s study that is already giving hope to one local man who has experienced the effects of the disease firsthand.

Steven Blais has a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s; he says he has a 50 percent chance of developing the disease.

“Several of my mother’s siblings have been diagnosed, and have all since passed away from Alzheimer’s disease at an age less than 65.”  Blais said.

The Providence resident is in his 40s, and while he worries about developing the memory-stealing disease, he hopes daily exercise and a healthy diet can help him fend it off.

So when he heard that two area hospitals– Butler and Miriam– were among five hospitals in the nation participating in a study examining if lifestyle habits can benefit people at risk for the disease, Blais said he was given hope.

Called the  U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER), or U.S. POINTER Study for short, the study will follow 2,000 volunteers between the ages of 60 and 79.  The volunteers will be placed into two groups.

“One group will have a self-guided lifestyle program, and the other group will have a more structured lifestyle program,”  a statement from the Alzheimer’s Association said. “Each program will encourage increased physical exercise, a healthier diet, cognitive and social stimulation, and regular monitoring of heart and vascular health.”

“We are going to find out if exercising on a regular basis, eating a Mediterranean diet, having brain stimulation training and having good heart health actually protects against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Stephen Salloway, Director of the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital.

The first mission, Salloway said, was to find 400 volunteers in Rhode Island who meet the criteria.

“It’s for people who are 60  to 79 and have normal memory, but they have an increased risk for Alzheimer’s either due to family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, they don’t exercise much,” Salloway said.

According to Salloway, there are 24,000 people suffering from Alzheimer’s in Rhode Island, among more than 5-and-a-half million diagnosed cases nationwide.

Salloway said he expects to see that number triple over the next few years.

Despite those alarming numbers, Blais, a self-described “fitness guru”, believes the study holds promise.

“To find a level of treatment to help people like me prolong my life means a lot, because I’m now in my 40s and my 60s are that far away,” Blais said.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the first part of the study will be conducted remotely.

Volunteer screening will take place through the mail and over the phone.

More information can be found at or by contacting ,or calling 401-POINTER (401-764-6837).

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2020



Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island