Time to tackle Alzheimers
By Guest Columnist Stephanie Duguid
June marks Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. The goal is to get involved and raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s, a disease that is often misunderstood, according to www.alz.org, a web site information source.
Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top ten in the United States that does not currently have a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression. As we all become more aware of the seriousness of this disease, the more likely we will take action to stop it. Alzheimer’s is fatal, not a part of normal aging and is more than memory loss.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, which is caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain that leads to problems with memory, thinking and behavior. It is ultimately fatal. Experts agree that in most cases, it probably develops because of complex interactions among multiple factors, including age, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and coexisting medication. You cannot control some risk factors like age and genes, while others, such as high blood pressure and lack of exercise, can be controlled.
As of 2021, Alzheimer’s is sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and is responsible for one in three deaths of people 65 or older. Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease, with nearly 55 million people worldwide recently diagnosed. However, only one in four people with Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, so many are living with the disease and do not know it. The disease kills more than breast cancer and prostate combined. Since 2000, deaths from heart disease decreased 14%, while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 145%. In fact, in 2020, COVID-19 contributed to a 17% increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to more than 16 million, according to www.alz.org.
So, what can you do to help reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s? First, you can focus on the six pillars of a brain-healthy and adopt an Alzheimer’s prevention lifestyle:
1. Regular Exercise
2. Healthy diet
3. Mental stimulation
4. Quality Sleep
5. Stress management
6. An active social life
As you age, it is also important to recognize the warning signs. More than 80% of Americans know little or are not familiar with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which can be an early stage of Alzheimer’s. Early detection can improve access to medical and support services. It also provides an opportunity to make any legal, financial, and care plans while you can. And finally, it may reduce health care costs by delaying placement in a care facility.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 10 key warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease that are key:
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life;
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems;
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks;
4. Confusion with time or place;
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships;
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing;
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps;
8. Decreased or poor judgment;
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities;
10. Changes in mood and personality.
Now is the time to get involved, learn more, to help spread awareness about Alzheimer’s and to be an advocate for those affected. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association for more information at alz.org or at 1.800-272-3900.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Stephanie Duguid is Dean of Academic Instruction at Co-Lin. She is also an athletic trainer and nutrition specialist and has been teaching courses related to those two areas as well as practicing what she preaches for more than twenty years.