As people are living longer, it’s predicted that by 2040 up to 25% of health expenditure will be on elder care, especially on the care of dementia patients. Scientists and researchers are working hard to identify the causes of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in particular. We’re still a few years away from effective treatments, or even an explanation of the causes of AD, despite the best efforts of companies like bitplane.com.
It’s hard to predict who will develop AD and who won’t, but as with any health condition, forewarned is forearmed, so here are the important facts about Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s the most common form of dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term to define several types of brain diseases that affect memory and cognitive skills. The other forms of dementia beside AD include Parkinson’s disease, mixed dementia, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.
Women are more at risk
Twice as many women have AD than men and the disease seems to progress more rapidly in women. The characteristic brain shrinkage is more severe in women, but this may be caused by other factors.
Heart health is linked to AD
Heart disease can increase your risk of AD, as can high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, an inactive lifestyle and a poor diet. Keep your heart healthy if you want to lower your dementia risk.
More education can lower your AD risk
The more educated you are, the lower your risk of developing AD. This doesn’t just mean school, college and university, though, you can carry on learning throughout your life to stave off Alzheimer’s. Take up languages, do puzzles, learn a musical instrument and take part in social groups and activities.
Alzheimer’s is a major cause of death
In the US, Alzheimer’s is the sixth biggest cause of death, with a third of seniors dying from either AD or another type of dementia. The bigger causes of death are heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, strokes and accidents.
It’s uniquely incurable
AD is the only top ten cause of death that, as yet, has no cure or treatment. Some meds can relieve some symptoms, but so far, we can’t prevent, slow down or reverse the decline.
It was discovered more than a century ago
AD was first observed and described by German doctor Alois Alzheimer in 1906. He treated a patient, Auguste D, who had memory and cognitive loss and problems. During the autopsy, Dr Alzheimer saw that areas of Auguste’s brain were shrunken.
AD is linked to the loss of the sense of smell
Alzheimer’s patients sometimes lose their sense of smell and changes in this sense can be early signs of the disease.
It’s important, however, not to jump to conclusions if you notice your sense of smell diminishing or changing it could be down to a sinus infection or injury, or a brain injury.
The life expectancy varies
AD progresses at different rates within patients, so it can be hard to say how long a person will live. The older the person is, the less time they have, with older patients living for three or four years. Younger patients can live for ten or so years.