June 11, 2019
Alzheimer’s is something I talk a lot about with patients. Not only is it prevalent – but the incidence is growing, and the lack of both a definitive cause and a cure makes people feel especially uneasy. Unsurprisingly, Americans worry about losing their mental capabilities twice as much as their physical capabilities, which explains why Alzheimer’s is the most feared condition, with cancer trailing behind as a distant second.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually sabotages the ability to perform even the most basic tasks. Today there are 5.8 million people living with the condition, but that number is expected to jump to 14 million by 2050. An aging population is largely to blame for the spike, but living longer is not an Alzheimer’s sentence. While there is still much we don’t know about Alzheimer’s, there’s a lot we DO know, and this is where I try to focus attention.
Alzheimer’s risk boils down to a combination of genetics, family history, age, gender and lifestyle factors. Here are six useful facts that I share with patients to curb anxiety over Alzheimer’s and encourage important lifestyle changes to reduce risk.
If you’re worried about Alzheimer’s, talk to your provider or nurse practitioner (NP) about your risk and things you can do today to keep your brain sharp as you age. Everyone forgets names and misplaces keys, but a change in your mental function is not something to ignore in hopes that it goes away with more sleep or less stress. Most seniors believe it is important to have their thinking and memory checked, but only 16% get regular assessments. An early diagnosis allows time for treatment to slow the progression of the disease, but the window of opportunity can be small, so don’t wait.