Having a long life these days can feel like a double-edged sword. While living long is what most people hope for, the risk of Alzheimer’s goes up significantly with age. For a person who is 85 years old or older, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s reaches one in three.
Let’s take a look at 10 startling facts about Alzheimer’s disease that everyone should know.
- Alzheimer’s disease frequently happens with other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. Researchers are starting to focus more on these co-occurring conditions and how they may fit into the overall picture.
- Alzheimer’s is not easy to diagnose. There is a PET scan that can detect the presence of amyloid in the brain, but these scans are expensive. For this reason, most patients are diagnosed based on their symptoms and by ruling out other medical conditions.
- Since scans are so expensive, it’s possible that blood tests may be the best way to diagnose Alzheimer’s in the future. These blood tests would identify certain markers in the blood that are linked to an increase in Alzheimer’s.
- Some risk factors can be modified. This is good news, considering it helps people feel more in control of their health and their risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Researchers suggest that by losing weight, lowering blood sugar and managing blood pressure, the incidence of Alzheimer’s could drop significantly.
- Unfortunately, some risk factors cannot be modified. Aging, for example, is something that happens to every one of us. Alzheimer’s is a disease that increases with age. Also, our genes are beyond our control, and some genes are believed to predispose people to developing Alzheimer’s earlier.
- There is no cure for Alzheimer’s at this time. There are some medications available that may slow the progression of the disease or manage symptoms better, but there is no cure. Even worse is that there doesn’t seem to be a cure on the horizon.
- Some researchers refer to Alzheimer’s as a third type of diabetes. This is because the same enzymes that are responsible for lowering our blood sugar are also responsible for reducing the levels of amyloid found in the brain. This protein is a problem in people with Alzheimer’s because it forms plaques on the brain.
- Alzheimer’s disease is considered a “slowly progressive brain disease.” Changes in the brain are already taking place well before clinical symptoms can be seen. Usually by the time a person begins having problems with their memory, and long before they are diagnosed, damage has already been done.
- Alzheimer’s is ultimately fatal. The Alzheimer’s Association painfully reminds us that there are no survivors. The disease destroys brain cells and causes memory changes and a loss of bodily functions. By the later stages of the disease, people can no longer talk, walk, think or eat.
- Currently, the research for Alzheimer’s is looking at genetics and the role that it may play. One area that deserves more attention is ethnicity. Researchers are trying to do a better job at understanding how certain populations may be more at risk for the disease.
Research for Alzheimer’s is always changing. Though there is no true prevention or cure at this time, it helps to know what researchers are working toward in the meantime.