Alzheimer’s Awareness: Learn More About the Disease

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. A form of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease is devastating for its victims, their caregivers and families, and the country as a whole.

Some of the Staggering Numbers Behind Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

  • More than 5 million Americans are presently living with Alzheimer’s disease.

  • By 2050, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease could reach 16 million.

  • 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.

  • 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 as whites to suffer Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

  • Since 2000, deaths caused by heart disease have decreased 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have risen 89%.

  • 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.

What Exactly Is Alzheimer’s?

Like other forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease steals a person’s memory. It often starts with occasional difficulty remembering recent events while easily recalling things occurring years ago. As it progresses, other symptoms include:

  • Problems with concentration.
  • Difficulty performing daily activities.
  • Confusion or frustration.
  • Dramatic mood swings.
  • Disorientation and / or getting lost
  • Unusual 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 then unable to retrace steps.
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities.

Doctors and scientists aren’t sure why people get Alzheimer’s disease but, according to studies, its 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 cannot yet pinpoint the specific cause of this nerve damage, however they surmise that a protein called Ago lipoprotein E, which moves cholesterol in the blood, may be part of the answer.

Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented?

While there is no proven way to completely avoid the disease, increased Alzheimer’s awareness could help make it less likely. For example, the same heart-healthy things you should already be doing, such as managing your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, may also reduce your Alzheimer’s risk. Studies have shown a strong connection between Alzheimer’s and high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

As always, exercise is incredibly important. When you workout 30 minutes five or more days a week, you can not only lose weight, but it also causes more blood to flow to the brain, which helps keep it healthy.

Doctors also suggest that you challenge your mind. Keep reading, learning new things, and stay involved. The mental stimulation may serve as a kind of “workout” for your brain. Of course, try to prevent any head injuries. Many researchers believe head traumas and concussions make Alzheimer’s disease more likely at some point in the future.

What Happens After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis?

Alzheimer’s awareness can lead to early detection, which allows treatment as soon as possible. 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, doctors prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors to treat symptoms related to memory, thinking, language, judgment, and thought processes. There are three commonly prescribed cholinesterase inhibitors:

  • Donepezil
  • Rivastigmine
  • Galantamine

Medications used to treat moderate-to-severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease include Memantine, both on its own and in combination with Donepezil. Memantine is taken to enhance memory, attention, reasoning, language, and the ability to perform simple activites.

Your primary care provider should make the initial evaluation. He or she may then recommend specialists including a neurologist, a psychiatrist or psychologist, or a geriatrician who specializes in caring for older adults and Alzheimer’s disease.