Did you know the human brain gets smaller as we get older? It’s true. Your brain keeps developing until you are in your late 40s, then it will begin to shrink. It is the only organ to undergo development for so long.
The human brain is one of the most complex organs in our bodies and triggers every thought, action and memory we have. But the brain can experience trauma or lose functioning resulting in memory loss.
Some memory loss as we age is normal, and even factors like stress can cause people to forget everything from where their keys are to why they walked into a room. When is forgetfulness something more serious? In honor of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at Alzheimer’s disease and warning signs to watch for.
Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are terms that are often used interchangeably, however, there are some distinct differences. Dementia is a general term for a decline in memory, reasoning and other thinking skills. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s is a specific brain disease that accounts for nearly 60-80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, and also a cause of dementia, caused by complex brain changes following cell damage.
Alzheimer’s and dementia have a higher mortality rate than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. In fact, one in three seniors die from Alzheimer’s or another dementia and the number is only rising. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths have increased by 16% during the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, between 2000 and 2019, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased 145% while deaths from heart disease, the number one cause of death in the U.S., have decreased 7.3%.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that slowly worsens over time in three general stages: early, middle and late. As Alzheimer’s advances, symptoms get more severe including disorientation, confusion and behavior changes. Eventually, speaking, swallowing and walking become difficult.
There is no current cure; however, some treatments can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and research is ever-evolving. Researchers believe there is not a single cause of Alzheimer’s, but it likely develops from multiple factors such as genetics, lifestyle and environment.
More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association and one in nine people 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia. Most individuals with the disease are 65 and older, but there are approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 with early-onset Alzheimer’s. After 65, the risk of Alzheimer’s doubles every five years, and after age 85, the risk reaches nearly one-third. It is important to pay attention to warning signs and monitor your health with a doctor to detect the disease early.
There are 10 warning signs to look out for that should not be ignored.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone you know, schedule an appointment with your doctor. An early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s provides a range of benefits for the individuals who are diagnosed.
New patients can call denova Collaborative Healthcare at 602-777-6337 for a free, 15-minute wellness consultation. You can also click here to make an appointment online. Remember, if you are experiencing a crisis, please call 911 immediately.