What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a type of a dementia that slowly deteriorates a person’s memory, thinking, and behavior. It is caused by abnormal clumps (amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fiber in the brain, along with the loss of connection between nerve cells. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. Symptoms develop slowly, and begin to worsen over time. People with Alzheimer’s live an average of 8 years after their symptoms become noticeable to others. Alzheimer’s is a global epidemic affecting 47 million people globally, and is the 6th leading cause of death in America. Although there is no known cure, it is still being researched extensively and treatment has developed to slow down symptoms.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information. As the disease progresses, symptoms worsen. People with Alzheimer’s may experience;
- Impaired reasoning or judgment
- Trouble doing everyday tasks such as cooking a meal or paying bills
- Mood/behavior changes
- Suspicions about loved ones
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing, walking
People with the disease may not even recognize that they have any of these symptoms. It is important that if friends or family notice any of these symptoms, they seek out medical help for their affected loved one.
Alzheimer’s Risk Factors
Although still little is known about the exact cause of Alzheimer’s, the greatest risk factor for the disease is older age. Some people develop Alzheimer’s at an earlier age, but this is extremely rare. Only about 4% of Americans with Alzheimer’s are under the age of 65. Older women are at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The estimated risk for women at 65 to develop the disease is 1 in 6. Another risk factor is a family history. If a person has a family member with Alzheimer’s, they are more likely to develop the disease.
Research is not conclusive on how exactly to prevent Alzheimer’s; however healthy lifestyle choices have been correlated with supporting brain health. Regular physical exercise may directly benefit brain cells. It has known cardiovascular benefits and increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain. The brain and heart health seem to be linked, and current evidence shows that heart-healthy eating may also help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s. Heart-healthy eating includes a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, and limiting the intake of sugar and saturated fats.
Researchers’ are still studying ways to prevent early-onset Alzheimer’s which is associated with a genetic mutation. People with the gene are guaranteed to get Alzheimer’s, so researchers are testing antibodies on carriers of the gene who aren’t yet showing systems, to see if they can reduce the plaque buildup in the brain and slow down or even prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Nearly 2/3 of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women. Not only are women more likely to have the disease, they are also more likely to be a caretaker for someone who has it. Women account for 60% of caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients, half reporting that the care cause emotional and physical stress.