Alzheimer's
Last Edited: April 10th, 2012

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Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. It is the most common form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Assocation. Dementia is a condition of the intellect and thinking that worsens over time. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases, says the Association. While loss of memory and forgetfulness are part of the normal aging process, Alzheimer’s a distinct condition with its own set of symptoms, signs and treatments. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Here are some facts about Alzheimers:

  • 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease.
  • One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer's disease.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
  • More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care valued at $210 billion for persons with Alzheimer's and other dementias. 
  • Payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in the United States in 2012.

* Via the 2012 annual report released by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Symptoms

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In its early onset stages, memory loss tends to be mild, as one progresses onto the later stages of the disease, individuals will lose the ability to carry on a conversation, react to their surroundings and are unable to take care of themselves and carry out daily tasks and actions of daily living.

There are ten known symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association. They are as follows:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts normal life.
  2. Challenges in solving or planning problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  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

Risk Factors

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the greatest known risk factor for the condition is increasing age. In fact, the majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 and older. But up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer's (also known as younger-onset), which can appear in some people during their 40s or 50s.

Other risk factors include family history of dementia, Alzheimer’s and being a carrier of certain genes. If you feel that you may be at risk for Alzheimer’s, speak with your medical doctor about genetic testing to assess your risk.

Myths surrounding the cause of Alzheimer’s including the use of aluminum, the consumption of Aspartame, having silver dental fillings, and having the flu shot have all been unfounded by scientific research and data.

Treatment

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. But drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms, says the Alzheimer’s Association.

Researchers are looking for new treatments to alter the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia. In addition to medications, other treatment modalities include behavioral therapy, clinical trials and alternative therapies, like the use of certain herbal remedies such as gingko biloba and coral calcium. Since none of these have been proven as an effective treatment for the symptoms of the condition, always work with a medical doctor to determine the appropriate and safest treatment plan for the individual.