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What We All Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

Nearly 7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, a progressive neurological disorder that leads to a continuous decline in memory, thinking, behavior, and social skills.

Who is Affected by Alzheimer’s?
Age and gender are determining factors. 73 percent of Americans with Alzheimer’s are 75 and older, and women are twice as likely as men to develop the disease.

Are Alzheimer’s and Dementia the Same Thing?
It is important to understand the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia. Dementia is a general term describing a decline in cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s, however, is a specific disease and the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80 percent of dementia cases.

What Are the Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s?
For family members and loved ones, recognizing the early signs of Alzheimer’s can lead to earlier diagnosis and better management of the disease. Be aware of the following:

Memory loss: Forgetting recently learned information, important dates, or events.

Planning or solving problems: Difficulty concentrating, following familiar recipes, or keeping track of monthly bills.

Completing familiar tasks: Difficulty driving to a familiar location, managing a budget, or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

Confusion with time or place: Losing track of dates, seasons or the passage of time.

Understanding visual images and spatial relationships: Difficulty reading, judging distance or determining color or contrast.

New problems with speaking or writing: Struggling with vocabulary, having trouble naming familiar objects, or repeating thoughts.

Misplacing objects and the inability to retrace steps: Putting things in unusual places and being unable to retrace steps to find them again.

Decreased or poor judgment: Experiencing changes in decision-making and judgment, especially when dealing with money or grooming.

Withdrawal from work or social activities: Avoiding social activities, work projects, or hobbies that were once enjoyed.

Changes in mood and personality: Developing mood swings, becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious.

Are You at Risk?
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The causes of the disease are complex. Here are four of the most significant contributing factors.

  • Age: The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is growing older. At age 65, only one in nine people have some form of Alzheimer’s. By age 85, one in three people have the disease.
  • Family History: If you have a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s, you are more likely to have the disease. The risk increases with the number of family members.
  • Genes: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, less than one percent of early-onset dementia is caused by genetic mutation.
  • Heart Disease: Growing evidence suggests that the health of the brain is closely linked to the overall health of your heart and blood vessels. In fact, some studies indicate that 80 percent of people with some form of dementia also have some form of heart disease such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these warning signs, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation.

Sources: Alzheimer’s Association

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