In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, at that time there were less than two million people with the disease. Today, the number of people with the disease has climbed to more than 5.7 million, with that number likely to triple by 2050.
One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer's dementia. And although those ages 65 and older are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, there are thousands of others younger than 65 who have early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s, the sixth leading cause of death in the USA, is climbing steadily in the rankings. It is the leading cause of dementia and accounts for about 65-percent of all dementia worldwide.
According to Alzheimer’s Society, almost 40 percent of people over the age of 65 experience some form of memory loss. But, memory loss is not part of the normal aging process and regardless of the cause of memory loss, timely medical intervention is best.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive mental disorder that can occur in middle or old age due to continuous brain cell failure – nerve cells degenerate and die, causing memory loss and cognitive decline.
The disease develops slowly and gets worse over time, progressing from mild forgetfulness to widespread brain impairment. At first, people with the disorder may notice only mild confusion and difficulty remembering. As critical cells die, however, affected individuals undergo dramatic personality changes, forget important people in their lives and details about themselves, and become unable to carry out simple everyday tasks.
Even though there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or a vaccination to prevent the disease, there are things we can do to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Prevention includes leading a healthy lifestyle such as:
- Be active and exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid excessive alcohol
- Track your numbers: keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight within recommended ranges
- Stay connected socially and interact regularly with others
- Make healthy food choices, eat a well-balanced and healthy diet
- Minimize stress
- Challenge your brain by trying something new, playing games or learning a new language
- Protect your head by wearing a helmet when you participate in sporting activities
The human brain is one of your most vital organs. It plays a role in every action and every thought, and just like the rest of your body, it needs to be cared for. By making better lifestyle choices, you can improve your brain’s ability to sustain long-term health and fight illnesses.
If you have concerns about Alzheimer's in yourself or someone you know, don't ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. With early detection, you can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association. For more information, visit www.alz.org.
The Wichita Presbyterian Manor Alzheimer’s Support Group meets the 2nd Thursday of every month at 4 p.m. on our campus, 4700 West 13th Street. We cover educational opportunities for caregivers, professional guests attend to give their insight and answer questions, and caregivers offer other caregivers emotional support, reassuring them that they are not the only one going through it. Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend.