Understanding Alzheimer’s disease

Understanding Alzheimer’s disease
Posted on July 24th

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment. Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. It can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.

In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease. Younger people may get Alzheimer’s disease, but it is less common. The number of people living with the disease doubles every five years beyond age 65. This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060. Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age. Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease. There likely is not a single cause but rather several factors that can affect each person differently.

Age is the best-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Family history — researchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, genes do not equal destiny. Two large, long-term studies indicate that adequate physical activity, a nutritious diet, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking may help people.

Changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear. Researchers are studying whether education, diet and environment play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease.

There is growing scientific evidence that healthy behaviors, which have been shown to prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease, may also reduce risk for subjective cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

In addition to memory problems, someone with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may experience one or more of the following:

• 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 leisure.

• Decreased or poor judgment.

• Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.

• Changes in mood, personality or behavior.

• Even if you or someone you know has several or even most of these signs, it doesn’t mean it’s Alzheimer’s disease.

A healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

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