Many individuals today are being effected by Alzheimer's disease in the present or will be in the future. For this reason acquiring at least some Alzheimer's information could be very useful.
Every 70 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer's disease. By the mid-century it is estimated that every 33 seconds someone will have developed the disease. Currently 5.3 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Of the 5.3 million, 5.1 million people are 65 and older. These are not just statistics. With 500,000 new cases projected for 2011, someone you know or you may be directly affected. So, what exactly is Alzheimer's disease? Who are at risk for getting Alzheimer's? What causes Alzheimer's? Is there a cure?
What is Alzheimer's disease?
Although risk factors for Alzheimer's disease increase with age, it is not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer's is a brain disease resulting in damaged nerve cells and brain cells dying prematurely. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a disease. It is the progressive deterioration of cognitive skills and abilities essential to daily living such as memory, language, and problem solving. Approximately 50—70% of dementia is caused by Alzheimer's disease.
Who are at risk for getting Alzheimer's disease?Your risk factors increase with age. One in eight people aged 65 and older (13%) have Alzheimer's disease. Your risk doubles every five years after the age 65; and your risk increases by 50% after the age 85. However, younger people can still get the disease. Approximately 200,000 under age 65 of the 5.3 million with Alzheimer's are diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer's. This is reason enough to be try and learn as much Alzheimer's information as possible.
Unfortunately, older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to get Alzheimer's disease than older whites. Their increased risk may be due to high-blood pressure and diabetes within each group (both known factors in Alzheimer's).
If anyone in your immediate family circle has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, you may be at a greater risk. If the disease affects several generations, familial Alzheimer's disease may be the cause. Familial Alzheimer's disease only accounts for less than 5 percent of cases. Also Risk Genes may increase your likelihood of getting the disease. However, the test for Risk Genes is not generally recommended for everyone, but is included as part of targeted research studies.
What causes Alzheimer's disease?
One unfortunate piece of Alzheimer's information is that scientists do not know what causes Alzheimer's disease. They do know that chemical changes occur in the brain over a long period of time resulting in damage. As indicated in the above risk factors, genes within families may increase the overall risk for getting Alzheimer's disease. Some cases of early-onset Alzheimer's may be due to such inherited genes. Familial Alzheimer's disease or early-onset Alzheimer's disease is rare in people ages 30-60. The more common late-onset Alzheimer's disease occurs in those 60 or older. Research is underway to determine the genetic role involved in both types of Alzheimer's disease as well as how lifestyle and environment may relate to the disease.
Is there a cure for Alzheimer's disease?
There is no known medical cure for this disease. FDA-approved drugs may temporarily slow down the symptoms for approximately 6-12 months for about half of the people that use the drugs. Some physicians prescribe high doses of Vitamin "E" for cognitive changes. Non-drug approaches may be implemented also. Adjusting the environment to meet the needs of early behavioral changes in the Alzheimer's patient is one such approach.
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