Most people have someone in their family with dementia or know of someone with it. There are currently 5 million seniors living with the condition. It is a medical condition characterized by the loss of or decline in memory and other cognitive abilities. It predominantly affects the elderly, typically beginning after the age of 55. However, recent data on Alzheimer’s disease indicates the process that leads to the brain changes can start as early as 20 years prior to presentation with clinical symptoms.
Normal aging involves the slowing of mental processes and some memory problems. However, short and long term memory loss, problems with speech, and impaired cognitive function that affects decision making, social interactions, work and normal daily activities is not part of aging.
Dementia does tend to affect women more than men. On average, women tend to live longer than men. This means they contract the condition more and are more often caring for those with it. The prevalence of dementia doubles every five years between ages 60 to about 90 years. During the average lifetime, it is estimated that one in six women will develop Alzheimer’s Disease. For men, the lifetime risk is one in 11. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that more than 60-percent of dementia caregivers are women. This means they carry a greater degree of the burden since the emotional, social and economic consequence of the disease is placed on the caregiver.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Our best hope is to prevent the onset of the disease or perhaps slow its progression. Certain conditions and genetic factors increase, but a majority of the cases (70 percent) occur randomly.
Medication options are limited and should be pursued with your medical provider after a careful history evaluation to determine cause and the treatable conditions. My recommendation for everyone is to stay active mentally and physically at all times, no matter what your age. Start early in life and continue as long as you can. As far as we have been able to determine, there is only one fountain of youth and that is exercise of mind, body and spirit.
Some Alzheimer’s facts from the Alzheimer’s Association:
• 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. This figure includes 5.1 million people aged 65 and older and 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s
• One in eight people aged 65 and older (13 percent) have Alzheimer’s disease.
• It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
• Women are more likely to be care givers for AD patients. The physical and emotional burden of the disease is often carried by the caregiver and not the patient.