Alzheimer’s is a mystifying disease that can strike older adults 65 and up, and even begin in adults as young as 50. Every September 21, World Alzheimer’s Day, recognized globally, aims to raise awareness of the disease and challenge the common stigma that surrounds Alzheimer-related dementia. Studies have shown that on average, 2 out of every 3 people worldwide have little to no understanding of Alzheimer’s.
Here are a few interesting facts and tidbits related to Alzheimer’s.
Currently, There is No Cure for Alzheimer’s.
More than 100 years after the disease was discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, the origin of Alzheimer’s is still largely a mystery, although countless studies have been done and there are varied explanations. What we know is that there is no cure or way to stop its progression. However, there are ways to treat the symptoms.
Growing Older Doesn’t Mean Dementia is a Given.
There’s a perception that as we age, losing our memory and mental faculties is a given. Our brains and bodies age, and therefore we lose our sharpness. While the mind of a centenarian won’t be the same as a 20 year old or even a 50 year old, there’s nothing that suggests that older adults are destined to be plagued with Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia as they age.
Eating and Exercise Habits May Have Some Effect on Alzheimer’s.
Several years ago, Maria Shriver, who has become the de facto spokesperson for Alzheimer’s, reported on an experimental program that has shown to reverse the early onset of the disease. Called the Bredesen Program and developed by a California neurologist, it consists of consuming a Mediterranean diet high in fat and low in carbs, doing regular cardio-based workouts, fasting after dinner, getting proper sleep, taking supplements and engaging in brain training exercises. Dr. Bredesen claims that 9 out of 10 of his patients have improved cognitive functioning after participating in his program, but that it only works for those with early-onset symptoms.
Women are at a Higher Risk for Alzheimer’s Than Men.
Maria Shriver became a big advocate for Alzheimer’s prevention after her father died from the disease. She especially rallies for brain health in women, who are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s—two out of three of the 5.5 million Americans who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are female. No one is exactly sure why women tend to develop it more than men, but some studies suggest that education and professional work opportunities, or lack thereof, could be a contributing factor. However, the closing gap in educational and occupational between men and women may also mean that the gender gap in Alzheimer’s diagnoses is also getting smaller. Shriver also spearheads Move for Minds, an annual initiative each November the encourages women and men to make their cognitive health a priority.
Researchers are Determined to Find a Cure for Alzheimer’s.
There are countless research studies that have attempted to explain how Alzheimer’s develops and what can be done to both prevent and cure it. Studies range from observational to clinical as well as preventional; and while scientists have made progress towards unraveling the mysteries behind this disease, there is much more to be done. The Alzheimer’s Association is a good source to read up on what scientific studies have been done to date. You and your family members can help be part of the solution by participating in a study, as scientists always need good candidates (both cognitive and non-cognitive impaired). Sign up through the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry.
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