Rates of Alzheimer’s disease are climbing. Are you at risk?
Did you know that about 5.5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2017?
That’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2017 Alzheimer ’s Disease Facts and Figures report.
However, new research out of the University of California Los Angeles found that millions more could be impacted by the disease in the future.
By 2060, they believe 90.3 million people will be affected by clinical Alzheimer’s disease, and that more than 75 million will have the pre-clinical form of the disease, according to research led by Ron Brookmeyer, a biostatistician at the University of California Los Angeles and published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by problems with memory, thinking and behavior. While it’s the most common form of dementia, it’s not a normal part of aging, despite an increase in the amount of people showing signs of the disease.
“The common warning signs of Alzheimer’s are memory loss that disrupts life, confusion with time or place, misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps or difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure,” says Dr. Malgorzata Bach, neurologist at the Advocate Memory Center at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
“The less common signs include withdrawal from work or social activities.”
Dr. Bach was not surprised by the study’s future projections, but believes the findings that 46.7 million Americans over the age of 30 are in a hypothetical pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease (the stage in which the disease has developed in the brain, but no symptoms are present) and that an additional 2.43 million have mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s dementia, could be overestimated, as the projections were calculated for all causes of dementia and not just Alzheimer’s disease.
“Age is the greatest of these risk factors for Alzheimer’s, as Alzheimer’s dementia increases dramatically with age. The number of Americans surviving into their 80s, 90s and beyond is expected to grow dramatically due to medical advances, as well as social and environmental conditions,” says Dr. Bach.
“In addition, the baby boom generation has begun to reach age 65 and older, ages when the risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias is elevated, so too will the numbers of new cases of Alzheimer’s dementia increase.”
Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s
Dr. Bach says interventions that prevent brain damage before it occurs and treatments that slow the progression of the disease from the pre-clinical stage to the clinical stage are needed.
“We need to realize that dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease is the final stage of a disease process that begins years before the onset of symptoms such as memory loss, problems with speaking or getting lost when driving,” says Dr. Bach.
While there is no cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s, there are some things people can do to prevent its onset. High blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol have been associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Developing a plan to prevent those conditions might also help prevent Alzheimer’s. Getting regular physical activity can help increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain as well as provide cardiovascular benefits, which can protect against heart disease and brain disease.
Additionally, a diet low in sugar and saturated fats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect the brain.
About the Author
Colette A. Harris, health enews contributor, is the public affairs and marketing coordinator at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Il. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and has nearly a decade of experience writing about health and wellness, which are her passions. When she’s not writing, you can find her practicing yoga, cooking, reading, or traveling.