NC Church Wages War on Alzheimer's

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The elderly congregants at The First Baptist Church in Jacksonville have a number of methods for keeping their minds and hearts active for as long as possible.

The church offers classes in Spanish. And they're building new memories by providing horseback riding lessons.

"It does help. It keeps the mind working," said church member Frederick Hill.

The church's pastor told ABC News he started the program after his mother died of Alzheimer's disease.

"I know that I have the gene. I can't change the gene. So I work twice as hard in other areas to combat it," Rev. James E. Brown said.

Research shows African Americans have a high risk for Alzheimer's - another reason Brown hopes the program will help his congregation for generations.

"Every time I look at my children, I know that we've got to find a cure before they're affected," he said. "I'm doing it for me, but I'm also doing it for those coming after me."

Duke University has been helping the church's program, sending out doctors to evaluate the congregants.

The program already seems to be helping, and doctors say churches across the country should start similar groups.

Duke University's Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer said, "We've noticed that people seem to be more spry and engaged and happy."

Doctors say they will evaluate the congregants in five years to see if they've been able to keep the disease at bay. 

Source: ABC News

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