Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., but recent studies have ranked it third after they found that deaths caused by this disease were underreported. In addition, many people who potentially have Alzheimer’s never receive a diagnosis for their condition. Given this development, this puts Alzheimer’s disease just behind heart disease and cancer as the top causes of death for Americans – in particular, for older adults.
Aside from it being a leading cause of mortality, Alzheimer’s disease is a cause for concern for a lot of people, especially since its initial symptoms include problems with memory, which is something that older people struggle with as they age.
Currently, over 5.5 million people are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease.
A memory-robbing disease
Alzheimer’s disease is classified as a type of dementia, which is a term for a group of symptoms that affect a person’s memory, as well as other cognitive functions, and diminishes his ability to perform everyday activities. While Alzheimer’s disease accounts for up to 80 percent of all cases of dementia, there are other forms of the disease such as vascular dementia, which happens after a person has a stroke.
While the brain does undergo certain changes during aging, it should be noted that serious mental decline is not automatically a form of dementia. If a person, say, an older adult, becomes significantly impaired in at least two of the following core mental functions, the decline in his cognitive capacity might then be considered as dementia:
- Communication and language
- Focus and the ability to pay attention
- Reasoning and judgment
- Visual perception
Like other forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. This means that symptoms, at first, will progress slowly, then gradually become worse. In particular, Alzheimer’s disease has been called a memory-robbing disease as it affects parts of the brain responsible for thought, memory, and language. A person with Alzheimer’s will start from mild memory loss and will grow worse. Ultimately, the person will lose the ability to communicate and will be completely dependent on others for care, until his body ultimately shuts down.
As of this time, no cure is for Alzheimer’s disease. (Related: Neurological damage linked to Alzheimer’s may be repaired with dietary supplementation.)
Factors that can lead to Alzheimer’s
Many people have asked whether they or their loved ones are at risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. While the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease is still unclear given its complicated nature, most of them agree that certain factors could increase a person’s likelihood of developing this disease.
- Being 40 years old. Multiple studies have shown that the chances of a person getting Alzheimer’s disease greatly increase after hitting the age of 40. By the time he’s 60, the risk of having dementia doubles every decade. In fact, at least four percent of older adults over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease.
- A family history of Alzheimer’s disease. A person with a first-degree relative who has Alzheimer’s disease is at risk of developing it later in life. According to geneticists, rare genetic mutations (including Alzheimer’s) can be inherited through generations.
- Having heart disease or diabetes. Older adults who develop cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, and diabetes later in life are more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease.
- Obesity. Obesity – that is, a body mass index of 30 or more – as well as physical inactivity can increase the chances of having dementia later in life.
- Smoking and drinking. People who smoked and drank a lot may end up having Alzheimer’s disease later on.
- Poor nutritional intake. If a person has not received adequate nutrition early in life, he may develop the disease as he grows older.
- Suffering from a head injury. A person who has been involved with a serious head injury, especially one that caused him to lose consciousness, are more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, its symptoms, and treatments at Alzheimers.news.