National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

Jun 21, 2022 | Blog

Statistics & Demographics

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of Dementia, an impairment of one’s ability to remember, think, or make typical daily decisions more of a challenge. Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.1 Alzheimer’s makes up an estimated 60% to 80% cause of dementia cases, with other possible types of dementia that if identified together, is called mixed dementia.2

Age, genetics, and family history are the greatest risk factors for late-onset Alzheimer’s, with age being leader of these risk factors. Alzheimer’s dementia increases dramatically with age: 5.0% of people aged 65 to 74, 13.1% of people aged 75 to 84 and 33.2% of people aged 85 or older that have Alzheimer’s dementia. Worth noting is that Alzheimer’s dementia is not a condition of aging.

https://www.cdc.gov/aging/data/infographic/images/racial-ethnic-disparities-alzheimer-disease-infographic-600px.jpg

Discovery

In 1906 Dr. Alois Alzheimer conducted an examination on diseased patient that suffered from then, unusual mental illness symptoms. Discovery of abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary, or tau, tangles) were found in the patient’s brain tissue. These plaques and tangles in the brain are still considered some of the main features of Alzheimer’s disease.1

10 Early Signs/Symptoms of Alzheimer’s3

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving 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 relations
  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

Treatments

There are 6 FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approved treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Of the 6 drug treatments, 5 (donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine, memantine and memantine combined with donepezil) temporarily treat Alzheimer’s symptoms. These do not change the underlying brain changes of Alzheimer’s or alter the course of the disease. The sixth, a recently approved drug (aducanumab) treats the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s disease rather than the symptoms. Aducanumb helps to reduce the amyloid deposits in the brain. By doing so, this medication MAY help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, although it has not yet been shown to affect clinical outcomes such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia.

There are also non-drug treatments and to include cognitive stimulation, music-based therapies, and psychological treatment. These do not alter the underlying biology of the disease and often used to maintain or improve cognition, quality of life and engagement and the ability to perform daily life activities. 

Lifestyle, healthy habits, and diet are showing a positive impact on the reduction and delay of dementia. Research is being conducted that is linking heart health to brain health, the brain makes up 2% of our body weight, but consumes 20% of the body’s oxygen and energy. Physical activity, healthy lifestyle choices (don’t smoke) and a diet that is heart-healthy (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, chicken, nuts, legumes, and healthy fats such as olive oil while limiting saturated fats, red meat, and sugars) can decrease the risks of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

References:

  1. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet
  2. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/healthybrain/ten-warning-signs.html

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Ben Stafford

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