What you need to know about Alzheimer's disease
Some facts about Alzheimer's Disease
By Jim Huinink (with sources, as indicated below)
- Approximately 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's Disease, according to the best estimates.
- Damage to the brain can begin as early as 10 or 20 years before any symptoms begin to manifest. Using brain imaging, these early signs are beginning to be tracked but there is still much research to be done.
- To a degree, individuals' risk of contracting Alzheimer's can be reduced through keeping the mind nimble and exercising memory.
- Other studies have shown that social activity is also beneficial in combating Alzheimer's Disease.
- There is some divergence of opinion when it comes to Alzheimer's and gender but a 2008 report put the risk ratio at 1:6 for women compared to 1:10 for men. The same magazine also reported that risk factors for each gender were different, with depression a contributing factor for woman and stroke the primary indicator for men. Read the report.
- Prevalence over the age of 65. A US survey in 2010 pegged the percentage of those with Alzheimer's at one in eight or 13%.
- Denial and defensiveness common reactions of family members. "For families, it's a real struggle if a mother who was always sweet now wants control over everything and gets angry if she can't get it," according to Lynn Gallagher of Toronto's Family Service Association.
- Every day 1200 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, according to Alzheimer's Reading Room. Approximately 100 Canadians every day are also diagnosed.
- Over 50% of Canadians' lives are affected by Alzheimer's Disease, in one way or another.
- Snoezelen therapy is still regarded as a worthwhile stimulant to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.
Alzheimer's Disease was named in the early 20th century by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German psychologist and neuropathologist, Alzheimer diagnosed alterations in the brain tissue of an autopsied patient, who had suffered from symptoms including memory loss and unpredictable behaviours. Significant findings of his examination were the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Today, these are two of the three most prevalent features of Alzheimer's Disease, along with a loss of connection between brain neurons (nerve cells).
Alzheimer's Signs and Symptoms
According to the US body, The National Institutes of Health, memory problems at a young or middle age may indicate a propensity of Alzheimer's Disease. People with more memory problems than others may have a condition called amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI). A higher percentage of people with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer's Disease than those without MCI.
Brain imaging and biomarker studies can be used to diagnose early stage Alzheimer's in those with MCI or a family history of Alzheimer's. As of 2011, this is an indication of our deepening understanding of the disease and progress toward treatment and a cure. Read more about Alzheimer's signs and symptoms.
The causes of Alzheimer's Disease are still not well understood. But it is thought that the disease arises as a result of a mix of causes that includes genetics, the environment and lifestyle choices. It is thought that Alzheimer's affects aging people more than the rest of the population because of atrophy as well as inflammation and the increased production of free radicals.
But as with so much related to this disease, there is still much research needed to fully understand this disease and implement proper prevention, treatment and cures.