On November 5, 1994, our President, Ronald Reagan wrote a letter announcing that he had Alzheimer’s disease. He felt that by sharing his news with the public that it would promote greater awareness about the disease that continues to affect millions of Americans. By doing so, November will forever be known as the National Awareness Month.
So what is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a common form of dementia that attacks the brain and causes a decline in mental ability. This disease makes everyday activities difficult and the symptoms will continue to worsen over time. It is reported by the Alzheimer’s Association, that there are more than 5 million American living with this disease today and that every 67 seconds another person in the U.S. will be diagnosed. A majority of those suffering from Alzheimer’s are people who a 65 and older. However, some individuals may have early onset of the disease and can start showing sign’s in their 40’s or 50’s.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and accounts for approximately 500,000 senior deaths each year in the United States alone. The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown. Currently, there is no cure but only treatments that can improve a person’s quality of life. Continual efforts are being made to find out more about how to prevent, delay and even treat this disease through increasing awareness and research.
The symptoms and effects of the disease can be different for every individual. There are many common symptoms and are often times mistaken for ‘age-related’ problems. Symptoms can include short term or long term memory loss, confusion, irritability, aggression, mood swings, withdrawal and difficulty speaking, writing or solving problems.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging and it is important to recognize the symptoms early. In order to determine whether it is Alzheimer’s, another type of dementia or symptoms caused from other health issues, a physician will need to perform a thorough medical evaluation. The evaluation should include a detailed medical history, physical and neurological exam, blood test, brain scan and mental testing.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms talk with a healthcare provider and explore your options. Additional information can be found on the websites listed below, among others, including the top 10 warning signs, stages, treatments, coping and support.
Alzheimer’s Association – www.alz.org,
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America- www.alzfdn.org
Mayo Clinic- www.mayoclinic.org