Alzheimer’s is a disease many of us are familiar with. Whether you have been personally affected or someone in your family has, almost all of us have at least heard of this disease. Alzheimer’s in the simplest of terms is the most common form of dementia and is a very progressive disease. It typically begins with mild memory loss while possibly leading to the loss of ability to carry a conversation and respond to the environment. With the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, we put together this Health Journal to dive deeper into the disease and help those who may be trying to learn about it.
What is Alzheimer’s and what do we know?
As we mentioned above, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and is responsible for 60-80% of dementia cases as a whole. Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language, which can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
It is often thought that Alzheimer’s is a normal part of aging but that is not true. However, the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is increasing age since the majority of people with the disease are 65 and older. If it affects someone under the age of 65, it is considered to be early-onset Alzheimer’s.
For those struggling with the disease, it unfortunately typically worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over the course of a number of years. In the early stages, memory loss is typically mild, but as it progresses, those with late-stage Alzheimer’s lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and a person usually lives 4-8 years after a diagnosis but can live as long as 20 years, depending on certain factors. Alzheimer’s is also the 5th leading cause of death for adults aged 65 years and older and in 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans in that age group had Alzheimer’s. This number is expected to triple to 14 million people by 2060.
Alzheimer’s currently has no cure, but there is a worldwide effort to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset and prevent it from developing.
What are the warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
Now that we know more about what Alzheimer’s is and how it affects those that have it, it’s important to know what symptoms and warning signs to look out for.
Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age and many of us will eventually notice some slowed thinking or occasional problems remembering things. However, serious memory loss or confusion can be a major sign that our brain cells are failing.
Alzheimer’s typically begins to affect the part of our brain that controls learning. As it advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms like disorientation and mood changes. Other symptoms will include deepening confusion about events, time and place, unfounded suspicions about family and friends, and difficulty speaking, swallowing or walking.
Another difficult part about Alzheimer’s is those who are struggling with the disease often find it difficult to recognize there is a problem. Signs of dementia may be obvious to the friends and family around them but it’s important to seek the help of a doctor if you suspect a loved one may be experiencing dementia-like symptoms.
Below we have listed a few more symptoms to look out for if you suspect a loved one may be suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at a leisure
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.