September is World Alzheimer’s Month
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. It eventually becomes severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, making up 60-80% of all dementias.
What are the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease?
Genetics may be a factor as well as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer's are over 65; however, Alzheimer's can be diagnosed at an earlier age. Many people affected by Down syndrome also have an increased risk of developing a type of dementia that is similar to Alzheimer's disease and at a younger age. People with Down syndrome are born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, which carries the amyloid precursor protein.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by beta-amyloid plaques and tangles called tau proteins that damage nerve cells in the brain. This causes memory loss, personality changes, and inability to carry out daily activities.
How is Alzheimer’s disease treated?
There are several medications approved to slow the progression of this disease and there are vaccinations in clinical trials at this time; however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any vaccinations or drugs specifically to treat dementia associated with Down syndrome. Additionally, an international randomized trial has not shown any benefit for one of the Alzheimer's drugs, memantine, in adults with Down syndrome. Since the number of Americans with the disease is growing, Alzheimer’s disease remains at the forefront of biomedical research.
How can I stay healthy?
A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating hobbies have all been associated with staying healthy as you age.
Resources and information can be found at:
Alzheimer’s Association website: www.alz.org
National Institute on Aging (NIH): https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet