June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and symptoms usually develop slowly and gradually worsen over time. This article from helpguide.org outlines the signs, symptoms and stages of the disease.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a brain disorder that impacts daily living through memory loss and cognitive changes. Although not all memory loss indicates Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that one in ten people over 65 years of age, and nearly one-third of those over 85, have Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s usually develop slowly and gradually worsen over time, progressing from mild forgetfulness to widespread brain impairment. As critical cells die, drastic personality loss occurs and body systems fail.
Suspecting you or a loved one may be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s can be a frightening and stressful experience. Even when your worst fears are realized, the earlier you’re diagnosed and seek help, the better your chances of delaying the onset of more debilitating symptoms, prolonging your independence, and maximizing your quality of life.
Alzheimer’s disease risk factors
While the primary risk factors of Alzheimer’s are age, family history, and genetics, there are other risk factors that you can influence. Maintaining a healthy heart and avoiding high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high cholesterol can significantly decrease your risk. Watching your weight, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol, staying socially connected, and exercising both your body and mind can also help protect against the disease.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s affects patients under the age of 65. This relatively rare condition is seen more often in patients whose parents or grandparents developed Alzheimer’s disease at a young age.
Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
For many people, detecting the first signs of memory problems in themselves or a loved one brings an immediate fear of Alzheimer’s disease. However, most of us over 65 experience some level of forgetfulness. It is normal for age-related brain shrinkage to produce changes in processing speed, attention, and short-term memory, creating so-called “senior moments.” Understanding the significance of these age-related changes begins with knowing the difference between what is normal and what is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s.