November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The statistics on Alzheimer’s disease are staggering. More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, and that number is expected to grow to 16 million by 2050. Nearly one in every three seniors who dies each year has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In Connecticut and across the country, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death. The cost of caring for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia nationwide is estimated to be $259 billion in 2017.
Alzheimer’s is fatal and is not a normal part of aging. It is a progressive brain disease currently without any cure. It is more than memory loss and appears through a variety of signs and symptoms. Here are more sobering facts. The average course of the disease is 14 years, and it is typically diagnosed in years eight to 10 of the disease. By that time, brain lesions have caused irreparable damage and current treatments are much less effective. Many people believe memory loss is a normal part of aging, which it is not, and therefore the disease is not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, impacting the efficacy of the best medical interventions available. Because of this, available treatments are often deemed ineffective, but introduced at an earlier stage of the disease, they could be more successful. Intense research efforts have provided a great deal of knowledge of the disease, and there are promising drugs in the pipeline. Maintaining good vascular health by controlling cholesterol, blood pressure and obesity can keep a brain healthier, as can controlling known Alzheimer’s risk factors of diabetes, head injuries, smoking, poor diet, lethargy, and isolation. Go to alz.org/ct for more information and resources on Alzheimer’s disease.