Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in America, yet answers about what causes it and how it can be stopped remain elusive, says Beth Kallmyer, a senior director for the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in America, yet answers about what causes it and how it can be stopped remain elusive, says Beth Kallmyer, a senior director for the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association. Here are five things you should know about the disease.
Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells, which is what leads to memory loss and disorder in thought processes. It’s a progressive disease and ultimately fatal, Kallmyer says. By 2050, it’s anticipated it will affect 16 million Americans.
The disease is not limited to senior citizens. Of the 5.3 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s, about 200,000 are between the ages of 30 and 50, Kallmyer says. Early-onset symptoms include increasing difficulty with memory, thinking and concentration.
African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to develop Alzheimer’s, and Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely, a 2010 report shows. Researchers haven’t found a genetic link but know conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes — prevalent in both communities — increase the risk.
Someone may have Alzheimer’s if they forget recently learned information, important dates or repeat a question over and over; have difficulty following a plan or working with numbers; or have trouble with routine tasks such as driving to a familiar location, among many other symptoms.
Don’t believe myths about the disease, the Alzheimer’s Association warns. You can’t get it from drinking from aluminum cans or using aluminum pots/pans to cook, consuming products that contain aspartame, getting flu shots or other vaccinations, or having silver dental fillings.