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No, ABC, Churchill did not have Alzheimer’s

New Your, August 9th, 2002

The “ABC Evening News,” with Charles Gibson substituting for Peter Jennings, led with a story on the announcement by Charlton Heston that he had a neurological disease related to Alzheimer’s (AD). Gibson went on to note others who suffered from AD, naming Winston Churchill among them.

With respect to Churchill this is entirely without foundation.  John Mather, M.D. of The Churchill Center, who has spent many years researching Churchill’s medical history, states:

“Churchill did not suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). He had multi-infarct mini-strokes which is associated with a progressive and mild dementia. He did not experience anything like the ravages of progressive AD despite his steady decline over the last three to five years of his life.

“I will not recount what happens with AD victims; it is very bad, not only for anyone with the disease but those around them, who are usually devastated emotionally and exhausted by the need for constant physical care. For example, most AD sufferers are mental ‘wanderers’; it is clear that Churchill was not a ‘wanderer,’ nor was he unable to recognize friends and
family.

“He was, however, mildly depressed in his later years and was sometimes photographed in a wheel chair staring into space. While this was painful for his family, his problem was not Alzheimer’s. A close member of Sir Winston’s family explained to me that he had good days when the weather was fine and the barometric pressure low–often experienced by patients with ‘mini-strokes’ and poor blood supply to the brain. Those with AD have no ‘good days’ at all.

“Sir Winston Churchill died of a stroke (the third or fourth in his life), and this was secondary to ‘hardening’ of his arteries (atherosclerosis): also related, remarkably, to a normal blood pressure for his age. Deterioration of the blood supply to his brain was the problem, and accounts for his slowly developing cognitive dissonance or mild dementia.”

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