According to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people are suffering from dementia worldwide. Every year, there are almost 10 million new cases. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which affects up to 70 percent of those cases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans at the age of 65 and older live with this disease. These statistics are unfortunate and heartbreaking, but they can be prevented.
If you know someone who has Alzheimer’s or someone at risk of getting it, a deeper understanding of the disease will help avoid it.
Alzheimer’s disease, or just Alzheimer’s, is a slow and progressive deterioration of memory, thinking, and behavior that get worse over time. In severe cases, it can even interfere with daily tasks. It is not a normal part of aging even though the greatest risk factor is increasing age. Around 200,000 Americans under 65 also have this disease.
It is the sixth leading cause of death in the US.
Currently, scientists don’t fully understand yet what exactly causes the disease. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, late-onset Alzheimer’s likely develop over decades and are caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
There are also studies into the links between Alzheimer’s and a number of conditions like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
There are three stages of Alzheimer’s progression.
- Mild – People are often diagnosed during this stage. People with mild cases experience memory loss and other cognitive challenges. They take longer to complete daily tasks and usually undergo personality and behavior changes.
- Moderate – At this stage, the disease damages parts of the brain that control speaking, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. They begin to have difficulties recognizing the people in their lives.
- Severe – During this stage, brain tissue shrinks, and the body shuts down. People with severe cases are often dependent on others for care and can no longer communicate.
There is currently no cure for this disease. The treatments applied mostly target and slow down the progression of symptoms.
According to the Harvard Medical School, improving a person’s lifestyle can greatly reduce the chances of getting Alzheimer’s in later life.
- Exercising – Regular physical activity prevents the development or slows down the progression of the disease. A person should get at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise, three to four times a week.
- Healthy Diet – A healthy diet prevents many of the conditions linked to Alzheimer’s. Also, according to WebMD, a diet with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains can help ease symptoms for those diagnosed.
- Good Sleep – Seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night can prevent the disease and keep the body healthy overall.
- Cognitive training – activities that enhance memory, reasoning, and mental processing speeds have been found to help slow the rate of age-related cognitive decline. Getting a new brain-stimulating hobby like 300 piece puzzles may be a good start.
- Social connections – According to the Alzheimer’s Association, staying socially active can reduce disability and mortality rates in Alzheimer’s patients.
Alzheimer’s has some frightening statistics, but more than the numbers, these are people – grandparents, neighbors, friends, partners. Hopefully, this knowledge can help you or people you know to prevent or slow down this disease.