10 Surprising Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease
Most Common Form of Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a term for memory loss and other problems with thinking skills. Other types of dementia include:
- vascular dementia
- dementia with Lewy bodies
- mixed dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
An estimated five million Americans now have AD, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
If You’re a Woman, You’re at Higher Risk
Nearly twice as many women have AD as men do, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. A University of California San Diego study found that AD worsens more quickly in women than it does in men.
The study also showed that brain shrinkage was more severe in women with AD than in it was in men with the disease. It didn’t explain why this happens, but researchers guess that brain changes in women with AD may be due to other causes.
Your Heart and Your Head Are Closely Related
Heart disease can raise the risk of getting AD. Other conditions that can cause heart disease and are linked to a higher risk of getting AD include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- poor diet
- a non-active lifestyle
Heart disease may also be a cause of vascular dementia, a type of dementia that results from narrowed blood vessels in the brain.
Education Can Lower Your Risk
According to the Mayo Clinic, the more education you have, the lower your risk of getting AD. You have lower odds of getting AD if you learn new things in old age, such as:
- taking classes
- learning languages
- playing musical instruments
Doing group activities or interacting with others also may lower your risk.
AD Is a Leading Cause of Death
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
In 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that it claimed more than 83,000 lives. Only heart disease, cancer, some breathing diseases, stroke, and accidents caused more deaths than AD.
About one in three seniors die with AD or another form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Unique Among Causes of Death
According to the Alzheimer's Association, AD is the only one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States without any methods for preventing, curing, or slowing it down.
Research into a vaccine continues, but so far there are no sure ways to keep AD from developing. However, medications can help relieve some symptoms.
Alzheimer’s Disease Is Costly
With an estimated five million Americans who have AD, the cost of AD in 2013 is about $203 billion, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The number of Americans with the disease is expected to increase in the years ahead. It is estimated that the cost of AD may reach $1.2 trillion by 2050.
Discovered in the Last Century
A German doctor named Alois Alzheimer first observed AD in 1906. He described a patient known as Auguste D. who had memory loss and other problems with thinking.
After the patient’s death, Dr. Alzheimer noted that parts of the patient’s brain were shrunken. A psychiatrist who worked with Dr. Alzheimer named the condition in 1910.
Linked With a Loss of Sense of Smell
A person with AD may lose their sense of smell, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Several studies, including one in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, suggest that changes in the sense of smell may be an early sign of AD.
It’s important to note that changes in your ability to smell may also be due to other causes such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- brain injury
- sinus infection
Life Expectancy Varies
The time it takes for AD to progress varies from person to person, so it’s hard to predict how long someone with the condition will live. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that older adults usually live three to four years with AD. Younger adults who get the disease may live with the condition for 10 years or more.
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- Women suffer higher rates of decline in aging, Alzheimer’s disease. (July, 9, 2013). UC California. Retrieved Nov. 13, 2013 from http://health.universityofcalifornia.edu/tag/womens-health/page/2/
- Women’s Health USA 2011: Alzheimer’s Disease. (2011). National Health Resources and Services Administration. Retrieved Nov. 13 from http://www.mchb.hrsa.gov/whusa11/hstat/hshi/pages/223ad.html
- Alzheimer’s disease risk factors. (2013). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=risk-factors
- Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures. (2013). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp#quickFacts
- Leading Causes of Death. (2013). Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm
- About Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s Basics. (2013). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/alzheimers-basics
- Major Milestones in Alzheimer’s and Brain Research. (2013). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.alz.org/research/science/major_milestones_in_alzheimers.asp#first
- Smell – impaired. (2013). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003052.htm
- A brief olfactory test for Alzheimer's disease. (Oct. 15, 2013). Journal of the Neurological Sciences. Retrieved Nov. 13 from http://www.jns-journal.com/article/S0022-510X(13)00311-0/abstract