© Rainer Mirau

In her story launching our Seasonal Appeal, FT writer Sarah Neville recalls one of the first international figures to go public about having Alzheimer’s. Ronald Reagan spoke courageously about his diagnosis in 1994, five years after leaving the White House, and then retreated from public life. “We were spared a continuing sense of the devastation the disease would wreak,” Sarah writes. It is a moving comment on the human impact of this cruel and remorseless condition.

The facts about dementia make stark reading. It is one of the biggest medical challenges facing us, affecting nearly 50m people around the world. Contrary to what many might assume, it is not a natural part of ageing. It is caused by diseases in the brain, and currently there is no way to prevent it, nor any effective treatment. The cost of dementia to the global economy will be an estimated $1tn in 2018.

However, Alzheimer’s is coming out of the shadows. Alzheimer’s Research UK — the charity chosen by FT staff as our Appeal partner this year — is part of the fight to combat the disease through both research and education. ARUK funds pioneering work to find better diagnosis and treatments. Their mission is also to raise awareness and understanding.

Our Seasonal Appeal stories will combine the best of the FT’s science and international reporting, to help us understand the challenges, along with personal stories from FT writers. We hope that readers will share their experiences too. Coming up over the next three weeks:

Inside the labs: FT science editor Clive Cookson meets the scientists whose world-leading work is making strides at the front line of research.

Global story: Robin Harding and Amy Kazmin speak to families in Japan and India about how Alzheimer’s affects their communities.

The hunt for a treatment: David Crow on how the pharmaceutical industry is responding: despite recent drug-trial failures, exciting developments are in the pipeline.

FT Video: Meet the video-game builders trying to beat Alzheimer’s — an FT film by Tom Hannen, presented by Anjana Ahuja.

Our stories and yours: A special project to collect and share experiences and personal perspectives from our readers.

Last week the FT reported that Bill Gates has joined the Alzheimer’s fight, investing an initial $50m into research. With your help, our Seasonal Appeal can be part of a new wave of hope — opening up the conversation about a disease that affects so many of us and the people we are close to. Please join us in supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK.

• Your gift will be doubled
If you donate to Alzheimer’s Research UK through the FT’s Seasonal Appeal, Goldman Sachs has generously agreed to match it up to a total of £300,000. Click here to donate now

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