Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
Everyone with a brain could potentially develop Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects 50 million people worldwide. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month—and a great opportunity to learn more about the condition.
A degenerative brain disease, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disrupts the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, including the signals that form memories and thoughts. Plaques build up between nerve cells, tangling the usually orderly cell transport system. The average Alzheimer’s sufferer survives just four to eight years after diagnosis, though early changes in the brain can develop 20 years prior to diagnosis.
Many of us are naturally absentminded or become more forgetful with age. However, Alzheimer’s is very different from grasping for the occasional word or name, because it can erase a person’s ability to perform common tasks. A common descriptor of Alzheimer’s is that it isn’t about losing car keys, but instead forgetting what car keys are used for.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s may lead to a longer independent life, as well as access to emerging treatments that may lessen symptoms, so assessing signs of the disease as well as other types of dementia and brain-related disorders needs to be part of your annual physical.
Whether you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, your doctor may advise you to watch for the following early symptoms:
Atypical memory loss, such as not recognizing a friend or family member
Planning challenges, including keeping track of monthly bills and other administrative tasks
Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to a familiar location or remembering steps of a recipe
Confusion about time or place: losing track of dates, seasons, or the passage of time
Decreased or poor judgment; for example, inattention to basic grooming and hygiene
Over the past 20 years, deaths from heart disease have decreased, while deaths from Alzheimer’s have more than doubled. Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month helps shine a light on both those living with these conditions, as well as research into the causes and potential cures.