Alzheimer's Awareness Month

Did you know that November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month? 

According to the Center for Disease Control, over 5 million people in the US are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. It is considered the 6th leading cause of death among American adults and the 5th leading cause of death among Americans aged 65 years or older. Unlike heart disease and cancer, death rates for Alzheimer’s disease are increasing rather dramatically. Awareness is of the utmost importance when it comes to all forms of dementia, as they have been shown to be under-reported by both patients and medical professionals. 

This map from the CDC shows the annual age-adjusted death rate from Alzheimer’s disease per 100,000 population for each U.S. county from 2005-2014

What is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. The disease was named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who discovered abnormalities in the brain of a patient that died from a strange mental illness in 1906. The patient experienced loss of memory, problems speaking, and behavioral changes. Dr. Alzheimer was the first to discover amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary in brain tissue, which are now seen as the physical result of the disease. 

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that slowly destroys your ability to respond to your environment, participate in conversation, and carry out everyday tasks. The disease affects the parts of the brain that control memory, thought, and language. Scientists have recently discovered that changes in the brain related to Alzheimer’s may begin ten years or more before symptoms arise, according to the National Institute on Aging

While studies are being done every day to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, there is still no known cause. However, age and a family history of the disease are believed to be the highest risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s. Growing evidence suggests that maintaining levels of physical, social, and mental activity may reduce your risk of developing the disease, but there is no proof that you can completely eliminate your risk.

Know the Symptoms

The Alzheimer’s Association has come up with 10 Early Warning Signs to keep an eye out for. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms:

  1. Memory Loss that disrupts daily Life
  2. Challenges planning or problem-solving
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Difficulty understanding visual images or spatial relationships
  6. New problems with language in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and not being able to retrace your steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood or personality

Know the Difference

We all experience changes in our bodies and new challenges as we age. It’s important to understand the difference between Alzheimer’s symptoms and common issues that simply come with age. Here is a helpful chart from the Alzheimer’s Association that breaks down what is considered a symptom of the disease vs. a normal aging problem.

How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

While there is no known cure for this disease, awareness is an extremely powerful step in combating Alzheimer’s. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the early warning signs listed above, seek medical attention as soon as possible. There are a variety of drug and non-drug options to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is important that you work closely with a medical professional to properly reach a diagnosis and decide on a treatment plan that works for you. Clinical trials are also available for anyone diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. While they may include a higher risk of side effects or have no effect at all, it is important that those who are willing to participate take advantage of clinical trials. Every clinical trial contributes to the current understanding of Alzheimer’s and brings us closer to finding a cure.

While November is officially Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, it's important to share your knowledge of the disease with friends and loved ones throughout the year. Helping others understand their symptoms will encourage them to seek out medical attention and begin a treatment plan.

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