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5 Facts You Should Know about Alzheimer’s Disease

Doctor explaining alzheimer's to senior patient.

Every 60 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s. With the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age, the focus on finding effective treatments has never been greater. To learn more about this frightful disease, take a minute or two to review the Alzheimer’s disease facts below.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. It’s the most common cause of dementia in older adults, affecting 1 in 9 Americans 65 and older.

There are still a lot of unknowns about this fatal disease, which is why it’s important to learn what we do know about Alzheimer’s. For a brief overview, here are five fact-checked answers to some common questions:

1. What are My Chances of Getting Alzheimer’s?

The older you are, the higher your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. At 65, you have a roughly 2% chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease each year for the next 10 years. This bumps up to a 14% chance after age 75, and increases to about 34% after age 85.

A family history of Alzheimer’s (i.e., individuals who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s) increases the risk of developing the disease, though experts disagree on how much. Some studies indicate the risk at around 30%, while others estimate up to four times increased risk.

2. What are the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s?

It seems likely that damage to the brain starts a decade or more before memory and other cognitive problems appear. During this preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, people seem to be symptom-free, but toxic changes are taking place in the brain. For most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Symptoms vary from person to person, but problems can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgment leading to bad decisions
  • Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
  • Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
  • Repeating questions
  • Trouble handling money and paying bills
  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Losing things or misplacing them in odd places
  • Mood and personality changes
  • Increased anxiety and/or aggression

3. What are the Stages of Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease progresses in several stages: preclinical, early (mild), middle (moderate), and late (severe). In the early or mild stage, a person may seem to be healthy, but has more and more trouble making sense of the world around them. As the disease progresses to the middle stage, memory loss and confusion grow worse, and people may have problems recognizing family and friends. As Alzheimer’s becomes more severe, people lose the ability to communicate. They may sleep more, lose weight and have trouble swallowing. Eventually, they need total care.

4. Is There a Cure for Alzheimer’s?

Researchers are still searching for a cure. However, there are several drugs available that may alleviate some symptoms and slow the progression in the mild and moderate stages of the disease.

Medications called cholinesterase inhibitors help prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, which helps neurons communicate. Having more acetylcholine in the brain could improve memory.

Glutamate regulators are another type of drug used to treat Alzheimer’s. If you have Alzheimer’s, you can make too much glutamate, which damages brain cells. Antidepressants are also used to help with mood changes.

5. How Can I Reduce My Risk of Alzheimer’s?

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Exercise, not smoking, moderate drinking, a Mediterranean diet, and mentally stimulating activities were linked to a lower Alzheimer’s risk in a recent study of older adults.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends these 10 habits to promote brain health:

  1. 1. Get regular exercise.
  2. 2. Take a class at a local college or community center.
  3. 3. Quit smoking.
  4. 4. Keep your blood pressure at a normal level.
  5. 5. Wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  6. 6. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  7. 7. Get a good night’s sleep.
  8. 8. Seek treatment if you have depression, anxiety or stress.
  9. 9. Stay socially engaged.
  10. 10. Challenge your mind.

Dedicated Support for Memory Loss

The memory care neighborhood at The Arbor offers a safe, supportive environment for older adults living with memory loss. To learn more about our innovative approach to memory care at Laurel Circle, contact us.