June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
Who doesn't want to live a long, healthy and independent life? Increase your chance of making that happen by learning about Alzheimer's disease and how to reduce your risk.
A recent study by the Alzheimer's Association reported an estimated 6 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. That's one in every ten adults, aged 65 and older, who have some form of the disease. A staggering 32 percent of adults, aged 85 and older, have Alzheimer’s dementia.
There are many types of dementia. In fact, dementia can be caused by many conditions, including strokes, brain tumors, chronic brain infections, hormonal problems, and even vitamin deficiencies. In elderly people Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause.
The possibility of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with age. Alzheimer's is not a standard outcome of aging. It appears to be related to the toxic results of protein deposited in the brain called beta amyloid. According to sciencedirect.com, beta amyloid is defined as “a heterogeneous mixture of small peptides….”
While the majority of those with Alzheimer's are 65 and older, the disease has been seen in individuals as young as 30. This may be due to a genetic abnormality which results in higher amounts of beta amyloid being deposited in the brain.
Currently, there is no known treatment for Alzheimer's.
The majority survive an average eight years after the initial symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. However, hospitals and clinics all over the United States are working daily on a cure.
The studies and trials are focused on how the disease can be avoided, its progression delayed, and how improved therapies can be utilized.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's
Early Alzheimer’s symptoms may seem like more of an inconvenience than a disease. The following signs are present in the early stages:
- Difficulty remembering common items
- Confusion in the evening hours
- Inability to create new memories
- Inability to perform simple math
- Making up stories
As the disease progresses signs become more obvious:
- Jumbled speech
- Repetition of own words
- Loss of appetite
- More aggression
Age is by far the main risk factor for Alzheimer. Family history and biology are also factors leading to the disease. Race is another risk factor. Research shows that Latino and African Americans are at greater risk for Alzheimer's progression and dementia related symptoms.
In 2018, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported the following statistics:
- African American -- 13.8 percent
- Hispanic -- 12.2 percent
- Non-Hispanic whites -- 10.3
- American Indian/Alaska Natives -- 9.1 percent
- Asian/Pacific Islanders -- 8.4 percent
Collective data reports are showing that cardiac activity correlates with mental wellbeing. That means that people with cardiac dysfunction appear to have neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's.
Memory failure and certain other neurological effects can be treated with two different kinds of FDA-approved drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Cells are damaged at the source of these cognitive effects. While this cannot be reversed, various treatments can make it easier for the brain to function and decrease symptoms.
Due to the radical brain cell deterioration, the individual will often show frustration and display mood swings. Doctors should provide the patient and family with contacts on outside sources to aid in training and proper care during more advanced stages.
While there are no definitive ways to prevent Alzheimer's, studies and data show that a proactive approach to aging leads to a healthier brain and body. It is essential to maintain a healthy weight, eliminate smoking and reduce alcohol consumption.
Another beneficial step to prevent or delay Alzheimer's is to engage in a routine fitness regimen for the mind and body. It is also very important to remain socially involved because contact with others encourages brain function and can help reduce the loss of brain cells that contributes to Alzheimer's.