Dementia is a worry for many aging baby boomers and for our parents. Just the thought of mental decline,
loss of dignity and possible hospitalization is frightening, and the demands on caregivers and family resources are overwhelming.
Awareness of Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – has grown since it was first described in 1906. As the population of older adults mushrooms throughout the world, dementia will affect more and more individuals, families and the entire health care system.
Alzheimer’s disease often is in the news these days.
The Obama administration recently presented a national plan to fight Alzheimer’s, calling for accelerated research, better tools to recognize signs of the disease and better access to information.
Researchers are also making headlines every day and on every front, studying genetic links, risks and prevention, improving diagnosis, and slowing or stopping progression. Hopefully, a real cure for the disease eventually will be found.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2012 facts and figures:
- One in eight (13%) of older Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease (although many say this figure is low).
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.
- More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
- Payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in 2012.
Dementia actually is not a normal part of the aging process. Aging, however, is the greatest risk factor for dementia.
The prevalence of dementia doubles every five years after the age of 65. Most experts believe that dementia is a result of complex interactions over the course of a lifetime. Family history and genetics, overall health and lifestyle choices all seem to enter into the equation.
In general, healthy habits that are good for your body are also good for your mind.
Brain changes that lead to Alzheimer’s begin to develop some 25 years before memory and thinking problems appear. Controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and weight; not smoking; sleeping well; being physically active and eating a healthy diet; and finding meaningful ways to stay active physically, socially, intellectually and spiritually all are believed to reduce one’s risk of Alzheimer’s. It’s never too early or too late to work to improve your health.