Don’t confuse normal aging with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
Just about everyone has some loss of memory as we age. However, don't confuse normal aging with Alzheimer's Disease (AD). As you enter your 50s and 60s you may experience "mild cognitive impairment" (MCI) being forgetful, a bit confused and display other symptoms suggestive of mild Alzheimer's — but they can manage. However, MCI increases the likelihood of developing AD — as great as 15 times more risk.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) – a small percentage of people (5 percent) will fall ill to its neurological destruction before the age of 65. But as we age into the 70s, 80s and beyond the numbers affected grow substantially. Today, every 70 seconds a person in the U.S. develops AD; estimates are that this rate will rise to every 30 seconds by 2050 as we all live longer. Not all dementia is due to Alzheimers: vascular dementia (due to blood vessel narrowing or stroke in the brain) accounts for perhaps 40 percent of severe memory problems (and other symptoms). But AD is the greatest threat to our memory — and even more so to our very sense of identity as we grow old.
While there is a genetic risk to developing Alzheimer's (1 in 5 people carry the gene type APOE-4 that increases the risk of AD), having the risk does not mean you will get the disease. In fact, most experts do not recommend that patients get genetic testing to determine if they have this gene type. Instead, sound advice centers on what we can do to prevent, delay and reduce the impact of AD. In fact, what can be done is principally under our control: It is in how we lead our lives.
Feeling like you need to do something? You can lay out a plan to prevent, delay and diminish the symptoms of AD for those who are at risk, which is most of us if we live long enough.
Brain exercises – from crosswords to learning a new language to trying to beat someone in Scrabble. You can discover how memory wizards recall the random order of a shuffled deck of 52 cards. You can complement brain training with walking more, socializing more, eating more fish, olive oil and nuts, managing your stress and reducing the body's inflammatory response, even have a glass of wine. You can use food supplements, meditation and perhaps medications.
You may be asking: Who has time for this? But self-care, self-management, is the secret to managing every form of chronic disease — including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and PTSD, asthma, emphysema and other lung conditions, Parkinson's disease, low back pain and a myriad of arthritic conditions, and cancers of all sorts. The question may not be who has time but rather who can escape self-care and expect to function well and have a good quality of life?Tags: Alzheimer's disease, dementia, genetic risk, mild cognitive impairment