Throughout the world, the stigma and misinformation surrounding Alzheimer’s disease is considered an international issue that requires global action. Because of this, September has been named World Alzheimer’s Month by the multi-national group, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). World Alzheimer’s Month is an international campaign to help raise awareness of the cognitive disease as well as ease the stigma surrounding dementia. In order to gain a better awareness of Alzheimer’s and remove the stigma, it is important to first have a basic understanding of the disease. Below are some interesting facts you may be surprised to discover about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
1. Alzheimer’s is not “harmless”.
Most people understand that Alzheimer’s eventually causes severe memory loss and an inability to care for one’s daily living activities. Besides this, however, many people believe that Alzheimer’s does not necessarily affect a person’s physical health and is not fatal. Unfortunately, this is untrue. As of now, Alzheimer’s has no survivors and is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the US (https://www.caring.com/articles/alzheimers-awareness-month).
2. Alzheimer’s is typically diagnosed very late into the disease’s onset.
While there is some variability from person to person with Alzheimer’s disease, the disease typically follows a 14-year trajectory from initial onset to when the disease claims the person’s life. On average, people are diagnosed in year 8-10 of the disease’s impact. Because of this, most people leave their Alzheimer’s unchecked and untreated for 7 years, allowing the lesions to grow and spread throughout the brain. Early diagnosis is the best way to make use of the medications and treatment plans that are currently available to patients.
3. Memory loss is not a typical part of aging.
Minor memory issues such as forgetting a person’s name you just met happen with normal aging. The type of memory issues that are not typical parts of aging and could be caused by Alzheimer’s disease include forgetting the names of important people or places in your past, or aspects of daily living. For example, forgetting the name of a longtime best friend, the name one’s high school or the way home from a place you’ve been many times are all causes for concern. To help discern between typical memory issues caused by aging and those that are concerning, visit https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs.
4. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but that doesn’t mean there is no treatment.
Because there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, many believe that following treatment plans are not worthwhile. Current Alzheimer’s treatments do not work for many patients not because they are fully ineffective, but because most people are diagnosed very late into the onset of the disease. With early intervention, a healthy diet and exercise, currently therapies and treatment options can be very successful in preserving the quality of life for many with Alzheimer’s.
5. Alzheimer’s disease is correlated to hearing loss.
People with untreated hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia than their peers without hearing loss. According to one study out of John Hopkins University found that those with mild hearing loss were twice as likely, and those with severe hearing loss were a whopping five times as likely to have developed dementia as peers with normal hearing (https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-07-2013/hearing-loss-linked-to-dementia.html). Luckily, the use of hearing aids has also been shown to slow the progression of cognitive decline for those with hearing loss.
How to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
If you are worried about your own cognitive health or that of someone you love, there are some measures you can take to help reduce your risk of developing dementia. While the specific causes of Alzheimer’s are still largely unknown, it is agreed upon by the medical community that leading a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet of whole foods, regular exercise, decreased alcohol or tobacco intake, and a healthy and active social life can all lessen the risk for developing the disease. Treating or reducing hypertension, high blood pressure, obesity and depression have also been identified as ways to reduce Alzheimer’s risk.
Another way to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is by getting regular hearing screens. Hearing loss significantly increases the risk of social isolation and dementia. It is important to care for your hearing health in order to also care for your cognitive health! Contact us at Audibel today to schedule a consultation.