According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 47 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia throughout the world today. In the US, someone develops Alzheimer’s every 66 seconds. Alzheimer’s takes more lives than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. It takes the life of one in three seniors. This makes Alzheimer’s the sixth leading cause of death in our nation. With so many people affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s important to be aware of dementia and the diseases it causes.
It is also important to understand how you can detect Alzheimer’s early by learning warning signs for the disease and how to slow the onset of some dementia symptoms by taking action now. The Alzheimer’s Association defines dementia as “memory loss and loss of other intellectual abilities that are serious enough to affect daily tasks.” It is caused by damage to the brain, aging and other genetic factors, all of which do not allow for proper communication between brain cells. Dementia is not the name of a specific disease, rather it is a term used to describe a range of symptoms that include memory loss, confusion and mood swings. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia and it accounts for 60-80 percent of dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease which means the symptoms slowly worsen over time. There are three stages of Alzheimer’s — mild, moderate and severe, with moderate lasting the longest for most individuals. The Alzheimer’s Association lists a few warning signs of Alzheimer’s that everyone should be aware of. Those signs include challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or work, memory loss that disrupts daily life, confusion with time or place and withdrawal from social activities.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are drug and nondrug treatments available to help the individ- ual cope with the dementia symptoms. According to the Alzheimer’s Association there are several things individuals may do to keep the brain healthy and slow down the onset of dementia symptoms and prevent the loss of brain function over time. These suggestions include quit smoking, eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit, get enough sleep, stay socially engaged and keep the mind active with books or games.
With one in nine people older than 65 living with Alzheimer’s it is essential we become aware of the disease and warning signs for it because early detection can make a difference. Although there is no cure for the disease, taking steps to live a lifestyle that promotes a healthy brain is crucial.
If you would like to be a part of building a dementia- friendly community become part of developing Dementia Friendly Sheboygan from 9 a.m. until noon on Aug. 22 at UW-Sheboygan. For more information call 920-467-4079 or email lisa.hurley@sheboygan county.com.
Ashley Grant is an AHEC Intern with Sheboygan County Division of Public Health