By Darci L. Graves, MPP, Health Power Editor
Alzheimer’s Overview for Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
Although it’s a parent or a loved one who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD or Alzheimer’s), it’s the entire family that experiences the disease. One in eight (1in 8) older adults has Alzheimer’s. That means one in eight families are going to mourn the loss of their loved one over a prolonged period of time. Grieving daily because their loved one is both gone and still in front of them.
African Americans and Latinos are more likely, for a variety of reasons, to have Alzheimer’s. However, they are less likely to be diagnosed, and when they are diagnosed, it is more likely to be at a later stage of the disease. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th cause among those age 65 years of age and older.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of all cases of dementia. Its characteristics include difficulty remembering names and recent events; and apathy and depression are early symptoms. Later symptoms include impaired judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking. (http://www.alz.org/downloads/facts_figures_2012.pdf)
Certain health conditions also increase the risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementia. These conditions include high blood pressure and diabetes which are more prevalent in African American and Latino communities. It is important to remember that ‘risk factors’ are not causes – but things associated with an increased likelihood of developing a condition.
Much is still unknown about Alzheimer’s. Research regarding its symptoms, causes, risk factors and possible treatments has only gained serious attention in the last 30 years.
What We Know
- 80% of care provided at home is delivered by family caregivers.
- In 2011, 15.2 million family and friends provided 17.4 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
- More than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; one-third report symptoms of depression.
- There are resources and support available for caregivers at all stages of the care continuum – http://www.alz.org/care/overview.asp.
- Alzheimer’s is not a ‘normal’ part of aging. (For more about ‘normal aging’ see below).
|Poor judgment and decision making||Making a bad decision once in a while|
|Inability to manage a budget||Missing a monthly payment|
|Losing track of the date or the season||Forgetting which day it is and remembering later|
|Difficulty having a conversation||Sometimes forgetting which word to use|
|Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them||Losing things from time to time|
Steps you can take to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s
- Decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease
- Follow a diet low in saturated fats and rich in vegetables
- Control your high blood pressure/hypertension if you have it
- Manage your diabetes
- Be socially active
- Stay very active mentally
- Have yourself or your loved one’s memory screened. You may or may not have Alzheimer’s. Memory issues can be related to many other medical conditions. You won’t know if you don’t go.
- Participate in Community Memory Screenings, which occur year round. You can find a site near you through the Alzheimer’s Association.
Remember the Health Power motto or tagline: Knowledge + Action = Power!®
This article is based on the following sources and if you are interested in additional information worth checking out.
Alzheimer’s Association, 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Volume 8, Issue 2. (http://www.alz.org/downloads/facts_figures_2012.pdf)
Alzheimer’s Association. 2012 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. March 2012; 8:131–168.
HHS Office of Minority Health (2007). Some Minorities See Alzheimer’s Symptoms as Natural Part of Aging. http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=5037
National Memory Screening: http://www.nationalmemoryscreening.org/index.php
Race, Ethnicity, and Alzheimer’s Disease: Fact Sheet (2011, March). Sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from: http://www.kintera.org/atf/cf/%7BB96E2E84-AF7D-4656-9C86-285306F00E19%7D/2011%20Race%20and%20Ethnicity%20Fact%20sheet.pdf
Resources on Normal Aging
Area Agency on Aging: What is Normal Aging?
National Council on Aging: Healthy Aging: Fact Sheet
Office of Women’s Health: Healthy Aging for Women
WebMD: Health Aging, Normal Aging
WebMD: Is there Normal Aging?