Elderly Care

What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million.

Chances are, you or a loved one will experience or care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the condition.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and affects memory, thinking and behavior. It’s a progressive disease that involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language.

What causes Alzheimer’s disease?

Experts are not sure what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s suspected to be a combination of age-related changes in the brain and genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. Risk factors for the condition include aging, family history, genetics, Down syndrome, heart disease, head trauma, exposure to air pollution, excessive alcohol consumption, poor sleep patterns and lower education levels.

Can I prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Although Alzheimer’s disease isn’t something you can prevent, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, abstaining from alcohol or drinking in moderation, and managing your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels can help lower your risk. It may also help to stay mentally and socially engaged. Research studies show that people who participate in social events, read, do brain teaser puzzles, play board games, create art and remain physically active have a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

What symptoms or warning signs may indicate Alzheimer’s disease?

Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease include short-term memory loss, such as forgetting a recent event or conversation. As the disease progresses, memory loss worsens with the person eventually losing the ability to carry out daily tasks and activities. Warning signs the disease is progressing include:

  • Forgetting conversations and events
  • Misplacing items
  • Difficulty finding the right word for objects or expressing thoughts and emotions
  • Declining ability to make decisions and provide self-care
  • Forgetting how to perform basic tasks, such as bathing or getting dressed
  • Changes in personality or behavior

What should I do if I have symptoms or a loved one is showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease?

Make an appointment with your primary care provider to review the symptoms you or your loved are experiencing. Your doctor can decide the best next steps based on a thorough assessment.

How is Alzheimer’s disease treated?

Although there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, taking medication may help manage or slow disease progression as well as manage symptoms. You might also take steps to adapt your lifestyle, such as establishing and sticking with a routine and keeping things in the same place.

Recently, aducanumab was approved by the FDA as the first drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is controversy around the decision and many health insurance plans and clinics are not covering or offering the drug. Talk to your doctor and he or she can help you make the best decision for your health.

Edward-Elmhurst Health can help you manage Alzheimer’s disease

An Edward-Elmhurst Health primary care provider is your first resource in learning more about Alzheimer’s disease and how to best manage the condition. Make an appointment online or call us at 630-527-6363.