Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease. Unlike many other conditions, it can be a challenge to pinpoint why people develop it because so many underlying contributing factors exist. For this reason, the more you understand about Alzheimer’s, the better able you will be to prevent it, or even alleviate existing symptoms, in yourself and your loved ones.
What Is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition that affects the brain and is one of the most common forms of dementia amongst older people. While it can also affect younger people, it is rare for the disease to develop when you are in your 30s or 40s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s more commonly appears in people in their 50s.
Alzheimer's starts slowly and first affects the areas of the brain that handle thinking, memory, and language. It often beings to manifest after the age of 60, with the risk of onset increasing as you age. Your risk increases if anyone in your family has already developed Alzheimer’s as there is also a genetic connection.
So far, the medical industry has not been able to develop a pharmacological treatment that can stop the disease or reverse the condition. In fact, more than 400 clinical trials have tried and failed to develop a drug to stop or cure Alzheimer's. Trying to develop a treatment for this disease has become one of the biggest and most expensive bio-medical failures of our lifetimes.
What Causes Alzheimer's?
Medical professionals agree that, in most cases, Alzheimer's develops due to a variety of complicated interactions between many factors, including age, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and other already existing medical conditions.
This is what makes it difficult to develop a pharmacological treatment as most drugs attempt to target one underlying contributor, which isn’t sufficient when it comes to Alzheimer’s.
How Prevalent Is Alzheimer's Disease?
While estimates differ, according to the National Institute on Aging, it appears that around 5.5 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer's. Experts believe that by 2050, this number could reach 13.8 million.
However, these figures don't take into account the people who are younger than 65 and have the disease, of which there are a significant number.
The rise in the number of cases is attributed to people's longer life spans, among many other factors, because aging is one of the biggest risk factors for developing the disease.
How Long Can You Live with Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's is considered to be the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. However, some recent data suggest that it could be third, just after cardiovascular diseases and cancer, as a cause of death for the elderly. The amount of time you have after receiving a diagnosis varies from one person to the next.
Are You at Risk?
Unfortunately, there is no test that can provide a definitive answer on whether you will develop Alzheimer's Disease. However, tests exist that can act as an indicator of how at-risk you are to develop the disease. For example, a doctor might look at things like your family's health and genetics. If someone in your family had Alzheimer's, the risk of you developing the disease is higher than the average risk.
Alzheimer’s Disease: How It Manifests
The first symptoms of Alzheimer's often differ from one person to another, though memory issues are generally quite common. Another sign that someone is developing Alzheimer's is any problem with language, such as difficulty finding the right words. Vision and spatial issues, as well as impaired judgment or reasoning, could also be indicators of the onset of Alzheimer's. Note that while mild cognitive impairment (MCI) could be an indicator of Alzheimer's, not everyone who has MCI will develop Alzheimer's. The problem is that we just don't know who will and who won't.
Someone who already has AD will experience problems carrying out everyday tasks, including paying bills, cooking food, or driving a car. They might also ask the same questions repeatedly, not realizing they are doing this. Other signs include getting lost easily, losing things or putting them away in unusual places, or finding simple things confusing. As Alzheimer's gets worse, the person might get frustrated, worried, angry, and even violent.
Can You Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?
Studies show that you can do a lot to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, it’s possible to improve your situation, even if you are already exhibiting symptoms. There is a lot of evidence showing that people can lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's by making certain changes to their lifestyle, including getting regular exercise and keeping their heart as healthy as possible.
New research has revealed that there are steps you can take to lower the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. These measures can also help to alleviate existing symptoms to some degree. For example, certain problems that affect heart health have been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer's, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Some studies that involved conducting autopsies on people who had Alzheimer's found that as many as 80% of the subjects also suffered from cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, minimizing these risk factors might also lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's, but might also relieve existing symptoms.
Experts have also come to the conclusion that it's quite likely Alzheimer's starts to develop long before the symptoms become apparent. In fact, it can start developing as early as middle age, which means that you should start taking care of your brain health as soon as possible.
The best way to do this is to identify your personal risk factors and work on controlling them by leading a brain-healthy lifestyle. The ReCODE Protocol is designed specifically to help you identify your personal risk factors and develop an approach tailored to your particular situation.