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Join World Alzheimer's Day on September 21

September 4, 2014 Health Awareness Days, General 0 Comments

Alzheimer's disease is a cruel and incurable disease that affects many people; those with the disease and their loved ones cling to the hope of a future medical breakthrough. On World Alzheimer's Day on Sept. 21, organizations and families who work closely with those with Alzheimer's will display the color purple while they devote themselves to an international effort to raise awareness and generate support. This year's theme is "Dementia: Can We Reduce the Risk?"

Join World Alzheimer's Day on September 21What Is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's presents as the accumulation of a protein called "plaques" (beta-amyloid) on the outside of neurons. At the same time, another protein called "tangles" (tau) builds up on the inside of neurons. These accumulations cause neurons to die, and as the disease progresses, the brain gradually loses its ability to function properly.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.2 million, or one in nine, Americans age 65 and older have the disease. Although it strikes over 200,000 people younger than 65, over 82 percent of those diagnosed are over 75.

The sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer's disease is both incurable and unpreventable. Even its progress cannot be slowed. It is also the most common form of dementia; somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent of types of dementia stem from Alzheimer's.

It is unclear what, exactly, causes Alzheimer's, but its risk factors are known. Some of them include:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Education
  • History of cardiovascular disease
  • Having other mild cognitive disorders
  • Having a traumatic brain disorder

Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's Dementia

The degenerative process of Alzheimer's disease begins years before any signs manifest, but there are tests that predict its likelihood. Some of the early signs to watch for include:

  • Frequently forgetting recent events and names
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Difficulty performing routine tasks, such as getting dressed
  • Disorientation of time or place

As the disease progresses, its worsening becomes apparent. The middle stages of Alzheimer's are indicated by:

  • Increased disorientation
  • Abnormal disorganization
  • Use of odd wording in speech or text
  • Rapid and inappropriate mood swings
  • Altered personality
  • Poor judgment
  • Social withdrawal

In the final stages of the disease, an individual experiences complete short-term memory loss and an inability to speak, swallow or walk.

Alzheimer's and the Future

The Alzheimer's Association reports that by 2030, 72 million older Americans will comprise approximately 20 percent of the population. Among the many impacts brought about by one-fifth of the nation being older than 65 will be a dramatic rise in the number of people with Alzheimer's disease. The number of new cases of Alzheimer's in 2000 was 411,000. In a decade, that number increased to 454,000, and by 2050, nearly 1 million people are expected to be newly diagnosed. The number of people living with Alzheimer's is expected to more than triple by 2050.

What You Can Do

Whether or not you have a family member with Alzheimer's disease, there are ways you can help. Join or organize marches in your community. Contact your federal and state congressional representatives and ask them to support legislation that assures continued care for Alzheimer's patients. Learn what you can about the disease and talk to others. Volunteer for a long-term care, home health or hospice facility. Be a resource for your friends and family who face the disease. Become part of a global effort this Sept. 21 and wear purple on World Alzheimer's Day to show your support for research and care.

Photo credit: Flickr

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