Did you know that all people with Alzheimer’s disease have dementia, but not all people with dementia have Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia and accounts for about 60-80% of dementia cases. This fact is an example of some of the many myths and misconceptions that exist about the disease.
In this article, we’ll discuss four things that many people don’t know about Alzheimer’s. Knowing these facts may help prevent the disease, or at the very least, help you be better prepared in case of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
It affects certain groups more than others
You may have heard that age is a factor in developing Alzheimer’s. But what is less widely known is that the disease tends to be more prevalent in women and in certain ethnicities. And there’s no real indication as to why this is the case.
Of the nearly 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, around 4 million of them are women. And older African Americans are twice as likely as Caucasians to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Those of Hispanic heritage are 1.5 times to develop a form of dementia.
Early symptoms are important to catch, and memory loss is not the only thing to look for
Catching Alzheimer’s early has a variety of benefits:
- More flexibility with medical options such as access to additional treatments, the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, and a chance to make lifestyle changes to preserve cognitive function
- Cost savings on medical care
- It will give you and your loved one more time to prepare and plan for the future, including the opportunity to maximize family time and get resources and support program
- It may help lessen anxiety and stress about symptoms
Watching out for the more common signs of Alzheimer’s such as memory loss and confusion is critical to getting diagnosed as early as possible. But there are additional signs that you may not be aware of. Changes in mood, withdrawal from activities, and even the loss of sense of smell can be indicators.
The prevalence of Alzheimer’s is on the rise, but the number of caregivers and medical professionals needed to help is unlikely to keep pace
An Alzheimer’s Association report estimates there are currently more than 5 million Americans 65+ living with Alzheimer’s — a number expected to nearly triple by 2050. And while the vast majority of primary care physicians expect to see an increase in people living with dementia during the next five years, but 50% say the medical profession is not prepared to meet this demand.
This includes preventing the disease from progressing. According to a study by RAND “The primary problem is that there are too few medical specialists to diagnose patients who may have early signs of Alzheimer’s and confirm that they would be eligible for therapy to prevent the progression of the disease to full-blown dementia. Researchers estimate that as many as 2.1 million patients with mild cognitive impairment could develop Alzheimer’s dementia over a two-decade period while waiting for evaluation and treatment resources.”
The number of family caregivers available is also not expected to keep pace with the increase in prevalence. Currently, there are 7 potential family caregivers per aging adult. By 2030, there will be only 4 potential family caregivers per adult.
Genetics play a role, but so does lifestyle (both in prevention and quality of life post-diagnosis)
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Family history is not necessary for an individual to develop Alzheimer’s. However, research shows that those who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease than those who do not have a first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s. Those who have more than one first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s are at an even higher risk.”
The good news is that there is a correlation between lifestyle factors and Alzheimer’s that suggests that there are ways you can help reduce your risk: “Research shows a connection between brain health and heart health. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s may be increased by conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.”
So, in order to take care of your brain, take care of your heart! That means eating well, staying physically active, and getting enough sleep. Keeping the brain sharp by taking classes, doing puzzles, and staying social active are other ways you can directly impact brain health. These activities are also important even after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As we discussed earlier in this article, lifestyle changes made after an early diagnosis can help preserve cognitive function.
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are ways to reduce the risk of getting it – and improving quality of life for those who have it. Making sure you and your loved one are eating a healthy diet, staying active physically and mentally, and getting enough sleep is important for both of you. But it may be difficult to help your loved one with these things if you have a busy schedule and a family of your own.
That’s when it can be helpful to bring in help from an in-home caregiver. Many of our caregivers are specially trained through our Dementia Specialty Program. This means they can spot early symptoms and can be on the lookout for changes in condition. They also know the ins and outs of the disease to help take care of their needs if they are diagnosed. If you’d like to learn more, please reach out to talk with someone on our team. We’re here to help!
- Caregiving – CDC
- Primary Care Physicians on the Front Lines of Diagnosing and Providing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care: Half Say Medical Profession Not Prepared to Meet Expected Increase in Demands – Alzheimer’s Association
- U.S. Health Care System Unprepared to Move Future Alzheimer’s Treatment into Rapid Clinical Use – RAND
- Why Get Checked? – Alzheimer’s Association
- 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s – Alzheimer’s Association
- 10 Surprising Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease – Healthline
- Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Help Lower the 19 Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s – Healthline