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20 Nov

Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s - It’s not a part of normal aging

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million Americans, and this number is expected to grow to as high as 16 million by the year 2050 as people are living longer, causing the elderly population to increase. November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and in the Capital Region, there are plenty of ways to get involved and support local families who are living with this disease every day.

 

So, What Is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that manifests as problems with memory, behavior, and thinking. The symptoms are progressive, which means that over time they will only get worse. Patients with Alzheimer’s may begin as forgetful, perhaps misplacing their keys or forgetting to return a phone call, but over time they may lose the ability to maintain a conversation, they may get lost, or they may have difficulty identifying their family members and close friends. Scientifically speaking, Alzheimer’s affects the brain’s normal function via the creation of abnormal brain structures, known as beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles - essentially a buildup of naturally occurring proteins that result in the blockage of typical nerve-cell communication. Over time, these nerve cells begin to decay and die, which results in the progressive symptoms seen in a typical Alzheimer’s patient.

 

Risk Factors Associated with Alzheimer’s

  • Age - most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older
  • Family history - Your risk increases if more than one family member has had the disease
  • Genetics
    • A gene called APOE-e4 has been identified as a “risk gene” for Alzheimer’s
    • One copy of APOE-e4 is an increased risk
    • Two copies of APOE-e4 are at higher risk - but are not guaranteed to develop the disease
    • Other genes are known as “deterministic” genes, and these are more likely to guarantee the development of the disease
    • This is known as ADAD - autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease, or “familial Alzheimer’s”, but only accounts for 1% of cases
  • History of head injury - Head trauma has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, especially when loss of consciousness is involved
  • Heart Health - An unhealthy heart can lead to an unhealthy brain, so make sure to take care of your heart according to directions from your health care practitioners
  • An unhealthy lifestyle - Healthy aging is important for keeping your brain in shape, it is recommended that all patients exercise, quit smoking, and maintain a healthy diet

 

Can You Treat Alzheimer’s?

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and no agents that act to reverse nerve-cell damage. However, there are a variety of treatment options designed to help with the symptoms of memory loss, behavioral changes, and even sleep disturbances.

 

What Can I Do To Help?

Get involved in the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association - the Northeastern New York Chapter’s website is located here: https://www.alz.org/northeasternny/index.asp 

There, you can learn about becoming an advocate for policy changes that will fund Alzheimer’s research, volunteering with the chapter at their various events, or hosting your own fundraising event! Additionally, the chapter hosts frequent support groups for patients and families who are living with the disease. And - keep your eye out for information regarding the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, a yearly event occurring throughout the month of October that gets teams of caregivers, patients, families, and people looking to make a difference together to raise money with the hope of finding a cure for this challenging disease.

 

For more information, please visit: https://www.alz.org/ 

For information about support groups, a list can be found here (broken down by county): https://www.alz.org/northeasternny/in_my_community_62706.asp