The Alzheimer’s epidemic: Facts you need to know
Coping with a disease that robs people of their memories and identities is not easy. Victims of Alzheimer’s include not just the patients themselves, but also the caregivers and family members who witness the relentless deterioration of a loved one.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death among U.S. adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 85,000 people die each year from the disease. Because the U.S. population is aging, the percentage of people affected by the disease is quickly increasing.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America estimates there are currently more than 5 million victims, including about 500,000 who are under 65. Alzheimer’s strikes women twice as often as men. Each patient usually represents one to four family members acting as caregivers for the afflicted individual.
The annual cost of treating Alzheimer’s in 2016 is estimated at $236 billion. That amount is expected to top $1 trillion by 2050.
In spite of the disease’s prevalence, the CDC notes scientists still don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s and there is no cure. Treatments generally focus on helping people maintain mental function, managing behavioral symptoms and slowing or delaying disease symptoms.
When people start to experience signs of dementia, they often try to hide their symptoms or cover up errors. Instead, they should consult with a medical specialist who can help them learn to deal with effects of the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association explains, “Accepting changes in your abilities and adapting new coping skills can help you restore balance to your life and give you a sense of accomplishment in your abilities as you continue to live with the disease.”
A study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas found that better cardiovascular fitness levels in middle age may decrease dementia risk later on, according to everydayhealth.com. In the study, scientists tracked treadmill routines of 19,000 healthy middle-aged people for 39 years and concluded that those who performed best on the treadmill were least likely to develop dementia.
Keep mentally fit
Older adults who stay mentally active may have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s, according to WebMD.
“Reading, playing cards and other games, working crossword puzzles, and even watching television or listening to the radio may help … avoid symptoms of the disease. So can going out and remaining as socially active as possible.”
“You may know that a Mediterranean diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, whole grains and fish — offers many heart-healthy benefits. But a Mediterranean diet may also benefit your brain,” reports the Mayo Clinic. Although researchers don’t know why, studies show people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to have Alzheimer’s.
Possible explanations for the diet’s effectiveness include lower cholesterol and blood-sugar levels and overall blood vessel health, which may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Another theory suggests eating a Mediterranean diet could prevent brain tissue loss linked to Alzheimer’s.
Donate for research
In September, SYNERGY HomeCare is asking the community to help fight Alzheimer’s. For every senior citizen who posts a selfie on its Facebook page, SYNERGY HomeCare will donate $5 to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Scientists recently reported they might be close to developing a simple blood test to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s. As reported in sciencedaily.com, researchers in the United Kingdom studied blood samples from 292 people with the early signs of memory impairment and found specific biomarkers that predicted whether a given individual would develop Alzheimer’s.
The search for the causes and cure of Alzheimer’s is ongoing. Until then, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best defense against this aggressive disease.
About SYNERGY HomeCare
SYNERGY HomeCare is a non-medical home care agency providing much needed respite and personal care, as well as compassion and companionship for the elderly, or those recovering from illness, surgery, or childbirth and the disabled.