"In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life."
-With brave honesty, the 40th President of the United States explained how he, Ronald Reagan, and his wife, Nancy Reagan, makes his diagnosis public.
Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common disease to cause dementia, is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. It is a fatally progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills, and the ability to carry out day to day tasks. In numbers: There are more than 3 million US cases per year, 8,523 cases per day, 355 cases per hour, almost 6 cases per minute.
Usually occurs 65 or older, average 3-11 years.
IS IT GENETIC
Sometimes, it’s not black and white. Research indicates that the cause is a mix of factors including genetics, lifestyle and environmental which impact the brain over time.
Risk is somewhat (precision is unknown) higher if a first-degree relative — parent or sibling — has the disease. But, according to the MayoClinic, less than 1 percent of the time, Alzheimer's is caused by specific genetic changes that virtually guarantee a person will develop the disease.
IS THERE A CURE
No, at this time, there is no cure or treatment beyond comfort and treating the symptoms.
This may include physical, occupational, medical or other therapies. It is important to get as accurate of a diagnosis as possible and watch loved ones carefully on medication. Dementia diseases impact individuals differently, as will treatments. A journal is a common way for a caregiver to log impacts and side effects to discuss with a medical professional.
SELF CARE OPTIONS
Research shows lifestyle habits can reduce cognitive and physical decline, thereby reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases which result in dementia. You have a lower risk if you keep your brain and heart active as you age (ex: learn a new skill, learn a language, play musical instruments). You can also decrease your risk of onset with
- Regular physical exercise
- Heart healthy eating
- Social interactions, community and intellectual stimulation such as learning a new hobby or language
- And last, but not least - regularly getting a good night's sleep.
Note: Links/URLs are great when they work, a huge annoyance when they don’t. They may update faster than we can catch them. To help keep up, in addition to the link, we’ve included the description of the location of the information to assist with good old fashioned web searching.
Disease specific information and support:
The Family Caregiver Alliance, has a "navigator" for finding support across the US. https://www.caregiver.org/family-care-navigator
Research and clinical trial information: https://Clinicaltrials.gov
DID YOU KNOW… THREE FAST FACTS
- Is the most common form of dementia.
- Impacts more than 5.5 million Americans according to experts.
- Impacts women more than men. Almost ⅔ of people with Alzheimer's diagnoses are women.
**Resources for this page information include Mayo Clinic, UCSF Memory Care and Aging Center and the Alzheimer's Association.