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Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) (Courtesy Photo)

In the spirit of the holidays, I am pleased to share some very good news.  Although some may not consider the issuance of a new stamp by the U.S. Postal Service to be all that important, I can assure you that the issuance of one new stamp is very important to us all.

America is aging, a progression that is bringing with it threats to our society, as well as joy.  Every American family must ultimately confront the passage of time, but nowhere are the challenges more prevalent than within our nation’s communities of color.

This is why our successful efforts to convince the U.S. Postal Service to issue its Alzheimer’s Semi-postal Fundraising Stamp are so heartening.  Priced at 60 cents, 11 cents of every stamp purchased by the American people will expand support for our nation’s promising efforts to conquer Alzheimer’s disease [ALZ].

Here are some important facts.

Today, more than 5 million Americans are living with ALZ, a progressive and ultimately fatal brain disease.  Another 15 million of their families and friends are providing care to their loved ones who are failing, often at enormous personal and financial cost.

Tragically, Americans of color are disproportionately affected.

Scientific studies have confirmed that African Americans are significantly more likely to succumb to ALZ than are other ethnicities, a disparity that, in all likelihood, is a result of our increased risk for other health problems and our reduced access to high quality health care.

The danger to each of us is compounded by the fact that ALZ, too often, remains a “Silent Epidemic,” a threat that steals into our communities, like a thief in the night, and, one by one, takes our grandparents and parents, our husbands, wives and others we love.

Here are some important actions each of us can take to protect ourselves and our families.

First, each of us has the power to become better informed about this terrifying and widespread disease. The Alzheimer’s Association is a good place to begin: alz.org.

Second, a healthy lifestyle is believed to reduce our vulnerability. We can reduce the calories and fats in our diets, as well as the alcohol, salt, processed foods and refined carbohydrates that we consume.

Third, we can remind ourselves and those we love to have regular medical exams so that we do not wait too long to discover the disease and begin treatment.

Finally, our nation’s scientists are on the verge of amazing breakthroughs in our struggle to eventually defeat Alzheimer’s and reduce its impact in the nearer term.  We are making progress in the areas of stem cell research and other promising strategies that hold much promise.

All Americans have a direct and personal stake in expanding both federal and private funding for this promising ALZ research.  This is where our support of the new Alzheimer’s Stamp is essential.

Most of us do not have the training to mitigate and eventually defeat ALZ, but we do have the power to support those who do.  During the holidays and throughout the year, every card and letter that we send through the U.S. Mail can take us a step closer to overcoming the Silent Epidemic that is threatening our families.

I am confident that our personal engagement in this effort can make a major difference in our lives.

The companion Breast Cancer Fundraising Stamp, issued nearly 20 years ago, has raised more than $86 million toward fighting that devastating disease – and our support of the new Alzheimer’s Stamp can do the same.

Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7thCongressional District in the United States House of Representatives.

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