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As we age, we become more susceptible to health complications. One chronic disease that is especially pertinent to the aging population is Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementias. Among them, 5.6 million are older adults who are age 65 or older. This number translates to one in ten older adults diagnosed with some type of dementia (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019).
Japanese Americans and Japanese communities are not excluded from this population. However, the rate of those in Japan developing Alzheimer’s disease has been steadily increasing due to the increase in Japan’s elderly population as well as the increase in those with diabetes and high cholesterol (Drug Development Technology, 2017). With the changing age demographics and lifestyles, knowledge of what the disease is and how our lifestyles can contribute to it are key to protecting our loved ones and ourselves.
The National Institute on Aging defines Alzheimer’s disease as “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out simplest tasks.” Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have lost neurons within their brain, which affects the brain’s ability to maintain its healthy brain functions (Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2018). Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting 60-80% of dementia cases (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019).
It is important to note that Alzheimer’s disease is not a natural progression of aging. However, risk factors such as older age, having a family history of Alzheimer’s, and carrying a certain gene can contribute towards the late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). While there is currently no cure for the disease, there are options available to help treat its symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, meaning that the person’s cognitive abilities gradually decline. On average, life expectancy after diagnosis is 4-8 years, but depending on other factors, it can be 20 years or more (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). In general, Alzheimer’s disease has three stages (Note: This is not the exhaustive list of symptoms in each stage.):
Someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia in the mild stage may experience:
Please consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about memory loss, thinking skills, or behavioral changes regarding yourself or someone you know.
Individuals tend to be diagnosed when the disease is already in its advanced stages; therefore, early diagnosis is imperative to help your primary healthcare provider prescribe drugs that slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Medicare enrollees can take advantage of annual checkups through free Annual Wellness Visits which include a look into any cognitive impairments related to memory or thinking (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019).
Healthcare providers are currently developing options to identify Alzheimer’s disease to help with diagnosis. Current methods include brain scans, lumbar punctures, measurements of the retina layer, and memory tests like the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination (Gould, 2018).
Studies show that Alzheimer’s disease begins to develop in the brain 20 years or more before diagnosis (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). Making lifestyle adjustments can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by a third (Kametani & Hasegawa, 2018). Here are some tips to help you reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
Alzheimer’s Association offers information on the latest Alzheimer’s disease research, facts, and support groups in your area.
Alzheimer’s Association Los Angeles
Alzheimer’s Los Angeles is increasing the awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by offering programs, services, support, and information on the disease.
A free 24/7 line offered by Alzheimer’s Los Angeles that provides information, emotional support, resources, and referrals.
Under the L.A. Found initiative, Project Lifesaver provides a free trackable bracelet for those living with the disease. If a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease goes missing, first responders can locate the person if he or she is wearing the bracelet.
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