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The 5Ws of Alzheimer’s

November 22, 2017

The What

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a condition characterized by memory loss, communication and cognitive issues.

The death of brain cells causes Alzheimer’s, and the size of the brain shrinks as the disease advances. Alzheimer’s disease progresses over time, leading to more severe and noticeable symptoms in patients. People with this disease live for up to eight years on average after their diagnosis. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s, though much more research is being dedicated to Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention.

The Who

Age is one of the greatest risk factors for Alzheimer’s. 5.5 million Americans have the disease, and 96 percent of them are age 65 and older. However, 200,000 people under age 65 also have Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is more common in women, and someone will be diagnosed with the disease every 66 seconds in the United States. In recent years, death rates for Alzheimer’s have increased 55 percent, to 25 per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. 

The Where

Getting regular checkups with your primary care doctor is important, because your doctor may notice changes that suggest you need to be tested. Most primary care doctors can handle the diagnostic process or they may refer you to a specialist, like a neurologist, for diagnosis and treatment.

The When

Alzheimer’s disease has very distinct signs. You should seek treatment if you have memory loss that interferes with your everyday activities, have begun to get easily confused about the time or place, have issues communicating, have noticed changes in your mood or have begun to withdraw from social activities or activities you really enjoyed doing. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify or accept these changes in yourself and to get help right away, so caregivers should also pay attention for these signs in a friend or family member.

The Why

Early detection is so important for Alzheimer’s. If you’ve begun to experience any of the symptoms I previously mentioned, get checked as soon as possible. 

Though there’s no cure for this disease, an early diagnosis could give you access to innovative treatments and clinical trials, help you live independently for longer and will help you and your family better plan for the future and for your care as you get older.

Coping with Alzheimer’s

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is tough for everyone involved, from the patient to friends and family members. But being more aware of the disease’s early signs and symptoms, getting regularly assessed by your doctor (especially as you age) and seeking timely treatment could make it a little bit easier to cope with the disease management process. Although there isn’t a clear prevention for the disease, keeping your mind active and optimizing risk factors like blood pressure, sugars, cholesterol and a good diet will lead to reduced rates of dementia.

Every day, the medical community advances research for Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, one day soon, we’ll find treatments that can slow the progression of this disease — or even better yet — cure it.

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