Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It affects memory, thinking and behavior. It can also impact your daily life. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Black people are two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. However, even though Blacks have a higher risk factor, they still remain only 34% more likely to receive a diagnosis. When Blacks do receive a diagnosis, they are typically diagnosed at a later stage when they are more cognitively and physically impaired and more in need of medical care. As a result, Blacks with Alzheimer’s “use substantially more hospital, physician, and home health services — and incur substantially higher costs for those services — than whites with Alzheimer’s.” As we age, our thinking may become slowed and we may have a harder time remembering certain things. However, experiencing serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way your mind works could be a sign that your brain cells are failing.
Increasing age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. Those who develop Alzheimer’s before the age of 65 are considered to be younger-onset or early-onset Alzheimer’s. People with younger-onset Alzheimer’s can be in the early, middle or late stage of the disease.
Family history: Researchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, genes do not equal destiny. Changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear.
Researchers are currently studying whether education, diet, and environment can play a role in your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Because Alzheimer’s begins in the part of the brain that affects memory, the most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is having difficulty remembering new information. However, as the disease progresses throughout the brain, you may experience severe symptoms such as:
- Mood and behavior changes
- Deepening confusion about events, time and place
- Unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers
- More serious memory loss and behavior changes
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Decreased or poor judgment.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
People with Alzheimer’s often find it difficult to admit or recognize that they have a problem. Signs of dementia are often much easier for friends and family to spot.
A healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that physical activity, a nutritious diet, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking may help lower your risk.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, but medical management and treatment can improve your quality of life by addressing the following:
- Helping people maintain brain health
- Managing behavioral symptoms
- Slowing or delaying symptoms of the disease
When to See a Doctor
Anyone that is experiencing symptoms of dementia should see a doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis interventions have improved. There are a number of treatment options and sources that can greatly improve your quality of life.