Medicine’s understanding of Alzheimer’s, and its effects on the human brain, is still in the pioneering phases. While we learn more all the time about how genetics, life events, and lifestyle components are involved in catalyzing the initial signs and progression of Alzheimer’s, the cure remains elusive.
With respect to the ever-emerging science pertaining to the causes, treatments, and potential for Alzheimer’s disease, we update our Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet regularly to reflect the current research.
Accurate Facts, Figures, & Stats Improve Alzheimer’s Quality of Life
The more you remain up to date on the current research and studies’ findings, including Alzheimer’s facts, figures, and stats, the better you can improve the quality of life for yourself and the ones you love.
First, we’ll begin with some basic, bullet-point facts about Alzheimer’s disease (AD), followed by more detailed information to support the care and support provided for those with AD. The following facts are derived from two helpful AD resources: The NIH’s page on Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Alzinfo.org.
Visit our Resource Guide for Alzheimer’s Care & Support for more helpful AD websites.
- AD is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States
- Most people with late-onset AD exhibit signs and symptoms as early as their 60s, even if the diagnosis doesn’t happen until much later (more on that below).
- Experts believe that AD-related changes in the brain may actually start as much as ten years before the beginning symptoms are detectable.
- Early-onset AD comprises about 10% of the Alzheimer’s population and is typically noticed/diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60.
- Someone is diagnosed with AD about every 65 seconds.
- Doctors predict as many as 14 million Americans will be living with Alzheimer’s by the year 2050.
- One-third of all seniors die with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia-related condition
- It costs about 350K per person to support the long-term health and wellbeing of an AD patient (read, Is Medicare/Medicaid an Option… for information about financing the care you need).
- There are multiple forms of AD and dementia – early-onset, late-onset, Lewy Body, Parkinson’s-related, etc. Care and treatment plans may vary depending on the type.
- Alzheimer’s genes (and other biomarkers) are identified, but they are not the sole cause of AD, nor does the presence of the genes mean an individual will get AD.
- There is no specific treatment for AD or dementia, although some drug treatment protocols slow its progression.
- Certain lifestyle changes have been shown to slow down the progression of AD.
Those last two points are part of what makes living with Alzheimer’s so challenging. There are not always clear reasons why a person has the disease, and there is no tried-and-true treatment for AD at this time.
This is why ongoing research around Alzheimer’s potential causes and treatment methods is so important. The more we learn about the brain and how it is affected by Alzheimer’s-related proteins, amyloid plaques, and tau tangles, the closer we get to a potential cure.
Early Diagnosis is Key
Because Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at the beginning of the middle-stage, when cognitive impairment is too dramatic to ignore, patients, families, and caregivers miss the opportunity to make decisions before things are chaotic and stressful. By diagnosing AD in the early stages, you have time to:
- Learn all you can and make a long-term AD care plan that involves the individuals’ wishes, desires, and goals
- Make smart decisions about caregivers or facilities
- Tour memory care centers
- Implement diet and lifestyle changes that reduce inflammation and support a healthier mind and body.
Read What to Do About an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis to learn more about the first, critical items to consider in the wake of an official diagnosis.
Re-Evaluate Diet & Make Anti-inflammatory Shifts
Recent studies have shown that high-fat, high-sugar diets “prime the brain” for AD. Diets that are higher in fats, sugars, and processed foods contribute to inflammation in both the hippocampus and the frontal lobe of the brain, two areas that experience AD decline.
Patients who have AD and who maintain their high-fat/sugar diets tend to progress more rapidly through the disease’s stages and have lower life expectancies. Making the switch to an inflammatory diet is a powerful one. The Fischer Center for Alzheimer’s Research writes, “Older men and women who ate a Mediterranean-style diet showed less shrinkage of the brain than their peers who did not eat foods typical of the Mediterranean region.”
Click here to read more about anti-inflammatory, Alzheimer’s-oriented diet recommendations.
Establish a Healthy Circadian Rhythm
You may have heard about sundowner’s syndrome, or you may have personal experience with it if you’re currently an AD caregiver. The more we learn about the body’s need for natural daylight and dark to maintain essential biochemical balance in the brain, the more there is a need to establish a healthy circadian rhythm in the home.
Alz.org’s page on Sleep Issues & Sundowning offers tips for how to establish healthy daily and nighttime rhythms to prevent these issues and support brain health. When you begin looking for long-term care options, make sure to ask about how they help to prevent and support sundowning for their residents.
Social Engagement & Activities Are Essential
The NIH states in addition to healthy diet and lifestyle practices, “… social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits…might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.”
If your loved one tends to retreat into depressed, anxious, or embarrassed seclusion, get in touch with Alzheimer’s support groups in your area, and learn how to keep AD patients socially stimulated and engaged to boost morale and their quality of life.
Your busy calendar doesn’t have to be put on hold. Contact Adult Day Care or Respite Care options in your area to keep your loved one safe and ensure s/he remains social, participating in activities s/he enjoys to promote overall well being.
Click the links below for more helpful information on memory care and supporting your loved one through their Alzheimer’s diagnosis.