Let’s Make Alzheimer’s Less of a Mystery
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. There are over 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, with 3 million new cases diagnosed each year.
The greatest known risk factor is increasing age. Symptoms ﬁrst appear late in life, and most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. As our aging population continues to grow, we can expect the number of Alzheimer’s cases to rise as well.
Researchers are still working to discover the root cause of the disease, but it’s widely believed to be due to the abnormal buildup of proteins in and around brain cells. This damage begins a decade or more before symptoms begin to show.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Over time, the symptoms become severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.
10 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
The Alzheimer’s Association has identiﬁed 10 early signs. It’s important not to ignore them. If you experience any of the following, make an appointment with your doctor.
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
One of the early signs of Alzheimer’s is forgetting recently learned information. This can include everything from important dates or events to asking the same questions over and over.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
People with Alzheimer’s may ﬁnd it more difﬁcult to make and follow plans, as well as work with numbers. Monthly household bills can feel insurmountable.
3. Difﬁculty completing familiar tasks
Alzheimer’s patients ﬁnd it hard to complete daily tasks like organizing a grocery list or driving to a familiar location.
4. Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. It may be impossible to process things that aren’t happening right now.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
Following or joining a conversation is often difﬁcult for people living with Alzheimer’s. They are likely to stop in the middle of a conversation, repeat themselves, and struggle with vocabulary.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
It’s common for people with Alzheimer’s to put things in strange locations, lose things, and accuse others of stealing things from them.
8. Decreased or poor judgement
Individuals may experience changes in judgement or decision-making. They may pay less attention to keeping themselves clean and make bad choices about money.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
Because conversation can become difﬁcult, an individual may pull away from hobbies, social activities, and favorite engagements.
10. Changes in mood and personality
When people living with Alzheimer’s are out of their comfort zones, they can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious.
SOURCES: Alzheimer’s Association, National Institutes of Health, act.alz.org