By 2060, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is predicted to reach 14 million. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we have an open discussion about this devastating disease, including recognizing its earliest signs and coping with its impact.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Before we delve into this disease, it’s important to note that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not one and the same. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America explains that dementia is a broad term used to describe symptoms of memory loss and/or loss of other intellectual functions.
Alzheimer’s disease happens to be the leading cause of dementia.
The Center for Disease Control describes Alzheimer’s disease as a progressive disease of the brain that impacts the centers in the brain responsible for memory, thinking, and language skills. It begins with subtle memory loss, and can progress to an inability to carry out conversations and respond to changes in a person’s environment. Despite all that is currently known about this condition, an underlying cause for its development has not been identified.
Who is Being Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease?
Although researchers have not found a specific cause for this degenerative condition, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that this disease likely results from multiple factors. The greatest known risk factor for the disease is increasing age; however, it should be understood that Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Most people affected by this disease are over 65 years, and the risk for Alzheimer’s doubles every 5 years after the age of 65.
Although family history and genetics have strong correlations to Alzheimer’s disease, there are other influences that can potentially be changed through lifestyle choices and wellbeing. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that there is strong evidence that links brain health to heart health. In fact, conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure appear to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
What are the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?
The Alzheimer’s Association describes 10 warning signs and symptoms of this disease that should not be ignored. These include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges with problem-solving
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and/or spatial relationships
- New problems with speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and the inability to retrace steps
- Poor judgment
- Withdraw from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
If you begin to notice one or more signs developing in yourself or a family member, get it checked out by a doctor. With over 50 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to get checked early. Early detection can provide families with more time to anticipate care needs moving forward
Is there a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?
As you might expect, there is not currently any known cure for this debilitating condition. Medical intervention can help maintain mental capacity and function, manage behavioral symptoms, and delay further progression of the disease. This hopefully enhances the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s for as long as possible.
Alzheimer’s Disease Support
Many times, those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are being taken care of at home by family members. The Center for Disease Control notes that caregiving can have numerous positive aspects for the caregiver and the person being cared for alike. It can help bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver while leading to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can be very difficult and overwhelming. Every day likely brings new challenges, as both the caregiver and the person impacted by the disease cope with changing levels of ability and new behaviors. And as the disease progresses, people living with Alzheimer’s often require more intensive care. More information can be found about caregiving here.
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