November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. A form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease to the person who suffers it, the people who care for the victims of the disease, the family whose member has the disease and the country as a whole.
The numbers concerning the ailment are devastating.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
- More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease.
- By 2050, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease could reach 16 million.
- Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States comes down with Alzheimer’s disease.
- One in three seniors who die have Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.
- Alzheimer’s Disease kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined.
- About 5.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017. About 5.3 million are 65 years old and older and about 200,000 individuals are under 65 and have a younger-onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- 10 percent of people in the United States who are 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease.
- About two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
- African-Americans may be twice as likely to suffer Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias as older white people.
- Since 2000, deaths caused by heart disease have decreased 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have risen 89%.
- More than 15 million Americans offer unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
- In 2016, caregivers provided about 18.2 billion hours of care valued at more than $230 billion.
- Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will cost the United States $259 billion in 2017.
- By 2050, the cost of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias could reach $1.1 billion.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Like other forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a disease that steals a person’s memory. It starts with the victim having a hard time remembering recent events while they recall things that occurred years previously. Later on, people with the disease will experience other symptoms including:
- Problems with concentration.
- Difficulty performing daily activities.
- Being confused or frustrated.
- Dramatic mood swings.
- Disorientation and getting lost
- Odd walk, poor coordination and other physical maladies.
- An inability to communicate.
- Difficulty reading, judging distances and defining color or contrast that can cause trouble driving.
- Misplacing things and unable to retrace steps.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities.
Doctors and scientists are not sure why people get Alzheimer’s disease. However, according to studies, symptoms are caused by two types of nerve damage –- tangled nerve cells (or neurofibrillary tangles) or a build-up of protein deposits (beta-amyloid plaques) in the brain.
Researchers don’t know for sure why these problems occur. However, they surmise that a protein called Ago lipoprotein E, which moves cholesterol in the blood, may be the cause.
Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented?
Although there is no proven way to avoid the disease, Alzheimer’s awareness could make it less likely. The more that you are aware of the disease, the more you will be encouraged to take steps to lessen its occurrence. For example, things that you commonly do for heart health may have an effect at making Alzheimer’s less likely. This can include managing your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Studies have shown that there is a strong connection between Alzheimer’s and conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and heart issues.
Doctors also advise that you monitor your weight. Studies have shown that obesity, for example, can cause changes in the brain that could make Alzheimer’s more likely.
Thus, exercising is imperative. When you workout, you lose weight, but it also causes more blood to flow to the brain, which makes the brain healthier. Doctors suggest that you exercise 30 minutes five or more days a week.
Doctors also suggest that you challenge your mind. Keep learning and stay involved. The mental stimulation may serve as a workout for your brain.
Try to prevent any injuries to your head. Some believe that head traumas make Alzheimer’s disease more likely at some point in the future.
Dealing With A Bad Diagnoses
Alzheimer’s awareness can help you deal with a bad diagnosis. For example, it can lead to early detection, which permits you to take advantage of existing treatments.
The United States Food And Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number of medications to treat early to moderate and moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
For early to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s the FDA has approved the use of cholinesterase inhibitors, which are subscribed to treat symptoms related to memory, thinking, language, judgment, and thought processes. There are three cholinesterase inhibitors that are commonly prescribed. They include:
Medications used to treat moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease include memantine as well as a combination of memantine and donepezil. Memantine is taken to enhance memory, attention, reasoning, language and the ability to perform simple activity.
Your primary care provider should make the initial evaluation. He or she may then recommend that you see a specialist that could include a neurologist, who specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system; a psychiatrist, psychologist, or geriatrician, who specializes in caring for older adults and Alzheimer’s disease.