If you know someone who has suffered Alzheimer’s disease, then you already know how devastating this disease is not only for you, but for the caregivers and loved ones who surround them. Therefore, each September, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) celebrates World Alzheimer’s Month.
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect over 50 million people across the globe with nearly 10 million new cases being reported each year. This September is a great time to ask questions about this common brain condition and what you can do to delay or prevent it from happening to you or your loved ones.
Alzheimer’s disease was named and discovered by Alois Alzheimer in 1906, who first identified tissue damage in the brains of his patients with similar mental health issues. This tissue damage was later identified as the formation of amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles, which caused damage or destruction to brain tissue and stopped the important communication between brain cells. The result of this often starts as mild forgetfulness and over time escalates into the inability to complete everyday tasks. This is because dementia is considered a progressive disease.
Alzheimer’s disease can occur at any age but is most identified in people 65 or older. It is estimated that every five years after 65, the risk of dementia doubles. At first, it is common to not notice. Everyone forgets their keys or an appointment every now and then. However, there are a few ways to recognize Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory Loss: Pay attention to your memory. While it is normal to forget an item at the grocery store, if you have dementia, these lapse in memory will become more and more frequent. It’s common to forget the day of the week or forget your medication. Eventually you may identify gaps in your recent memories, like forgetting who you met last week, or what happened yesterday.
Completing Task: You may have driven the same route for years, enjoyed a recipe, or enjoyed a craft or hobby. However, as Alzheimer’s becomes worse, you may forget how to complete the project in the middle of it.
Mood Swings: The issue is that it can be hard to self-identify Alzheimer’s. It creeps up and while others may notice, it’s easy for the person affected to not be aware of these cognitive lapses. Alzheimer’s disease can lead to some changes in your mood or cause you to become confused in social situations. Your loved ones may point out that your personality has shifted.
Anything you can do to improve the health of your brain can also minimize the risk of developing dementia. While age is a huge and unmodifiable factor in the likeliness of the development of dementia, it doesn’t mean that it is certain. Other factors such as an active lifestyle, a healthy heart conscious diet, avoiding stress and a healthy social life all help increase cognitive health and decrease the risk of cognitive decline.
Like dementia, the risk of hearing loss increases as we reach 65. One in three people over 65 deal with hearing loss and half of those over 75. While you may not think that hearing loss is as serious as dementia, the truth is that they are very connected. This is because, while hearing happens in the ears, comprehension occurs in the brain. As we lose more and more sound delivered to the auditory cortex of our brain, it creates cognitive strain.
If you’re living with untreated hearing loss, a study for Johns Hopkins by Dr. Frank Lin found that the risk of dementia is significantly higher. The study found that people with a mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia for those with moderate hearing loss the risk was tripled and found to be a five-fold risk for those with a severe loss.
The fight against Alzheimer’s starts with you. This disease starts with individuals but the devastating effects ripple through communities of those who love them. Like dementia, we are not always aware we have a hearing issue, but that does not mean that it isn’t affecting our cognitive health. One thing you can do to fight Alzheimer’s Disease this September is to schedule a hearing test. The tests are painless, easy and can identify if you are struggling with a hearing loss once and for all.