In 1983, President Ronald Regan designated November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. In a cruel twist of fate, he later developed Alzheimer’s and courageously battled the disease which has afflicted more than 47 million people worldwide. In the United States alone, there are more than 5.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association states that Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death and is the only cause among the top 10 that can’t be prevented, cured, or slowed. To help raise awareness to this growing epidemic, The Alzheimer’s Association works to educate the public about Alzheimer’s disease, its magnitude, the care options for those affected, as well as help raise money for medical research. One of the biggest public awareness campaigns sponsored by The Alzheimer’s Association is Walk to End Alzheimer’s which is the world’s largest event that benefits Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. Walk to End Alzheimer’s is held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide. Due to the pandemic, this year’s event wasn’t a big in-person gathering and instead consisted of small teams of family and friends joining to contribute to the cause.
According to hopkinsmedicine.org Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It often progresses to the point where it affects daily activities and functions.
Many, including health care professionals, consider Alzheimer’s one of the cruelest diseases as it robs people of their memory resulting often with them not even recognizing the loved ones who are caring for them during their time of need.
While it’s true that Alzheimer’s disease most commonly affects older adults, people in their 30s or 40s are susceptible to it as well. When Alzheimer’s disease occurs in someone under age 65, it is known as early-onset (or younger-onset) Alzheimer’s disease.
Almost five percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease have the early-onset form. Many of them are in their 40s and 50s when the disease takes hold.
While there is no cure yet for Alzheimer’s or other related dementias, the Johns Hopkins Medical Website (hopkinsmedicine.org) provides a list of things you can do that can help to reduce the risk of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. They include:
- Physical Exercise
- Maintaining A Healthy Diet
- Heart Healthy Behaviors
- Increased Mental Activities (Games, Puzzles, and various Social interacting activities with others).
Medical researchers continue to conduct important studies in the aforementioned areas to learn more about their effect on those suffering from Alzheimer’s. The Johns Hopkins Medical Website also states that experts don’t know the root cause of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease other than it is triggered by proteins in the brain that damage and kill nerve cells. For most people with early-onset Alzheimer’s the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
SOME OF THESE EARLY SYMPTOMS ALSO INCLUDE:
- Forgetting important things, particularly newly learned information, or important dates
- Asking for the same information again and again
- Trouble solving basic problems, such as keeping track of bills or following a favorite recipe
- Losing track of the date or time of year
- Losing track of where you are and how you got there
- Trouble with depth perception or other vision problems
- Trouble joining conversations or finding the right word for something
- Misplacing things and not being able to retrace your steps to find it
- Increasingly poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work and social situations
- Changes in mood and personality
- Severe mood swings and behavior changes
- Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events
- Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
- Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking
- Severe memory loss
Doctors can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease through cognitive tests of memory, problem solving, and other mental skills and through CT and MRI scans of your brain. These methods allow doctors to see just how much damage there may be to the brain. Researchers are also working to develop biomarkers in the body that will enable them to track and or diagnose the disease much more quickly.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website at http://www.alz.org.
If you need to see a doctor about Alzheimer’s disease, be sure they are licensed. You can check a physician’s license by visiting the Medical Board of California’s website at http://www.mbc.ca.gov.