Although Alzheimer’s risk is associated with old age, it is not a “normal” aspect of aging. Most people with Alzheimer’s disease are 65 or older. About 200,000 younger people have the condition, called “early-onset Alzheimer’s.”
Alzheimer’s has a genetic component: If you have a parent or sibling with the disease, you are more likely to develop it. However, no one is “guaranteed” to get Alzheimer’s. Older Latinos and African-Americans are more likely than older whites to develop the disease.
Some risk factors can be controlled over time. In particular, avoiding head injuries helps protect against dementia. Maintaining heart health is also important, because the brain is nourished by the cardiovascular system.
Alzheimer’s symptoms include:
Alzheimer’s has a profound and pervasive effect on quality of life. Lifestyle changes must occur as the patient’s needs evolve. Although some steps can improve memory and slow the rate of cognitive decline, patients require an increasing amount of care.
Many Alzheimer’s patients eventually move into an assisted living facility. Caregivers must be trained to interact with dementia patients. Appropriate care ensures minimal confusion and frustration while maximizing comfort and independence of the patient.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and no way to arrest the progress of the disease, but it can be slowed with treatment. Complications of brain decline can cause death in the later stages of the disease, especially if swallowing is impaired.
Alzheimer’s research is a major priority around the world, but more needs to be done. Clinical trials for Alzheimer’s need support from current patients as well as those with genetic risk. By working together, clinical trial participants pave the way to better Alzheimer’s treatment.