According to 2018 statistics, around 5.7 million people in the US have Alzheimer’s disease and it’s expected that this number will grow to 13.8 million by the second half of the 21st century. And although it may not seem like it, this devastating disease is actually the sixth leading cause of death in America—between the years 2000 and 2015, deaths from AD increased by a staggering 123%.
Despite being so widespread among Americans, there are still some facts about Alzheimer’s that not everyone is familiar with, but definitely should be. Because of this, today we’re going to debunk some of the most common myths about Alzheimer’s and hopefully help you understand it a bit better.
Myth #1: Alzheimer’s Disease Doesn’t Lead to Death
As we already mentioned above, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States—most people who have AD live only eight to ten years after they are diagnosed. Although the effects of this disease are not immediate like those of stroke and heart attack, patients often forget to eat and drink, which leads to them not getting enough nutrients.
A lot of times, Alzheimer’s patients will have trouble swallowing and even have breathing problems, causing them to catch pneumonia, which is in itself deadly. In addition to all of that, patients with this disease (and dementia, in general) are prone to wandering episodes, which can easily lead them into extremely dangerous situations.
Myth #2: Alzheimer’s Only Occurs Among Older People
Although the majority of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s are over 65 years old, this doesn’t mean that younger people can’t get it, as well. The so-called early-onset Alzheimer’s (which can be genetic) strikes people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, which is approximately 5% of all people who develop AD symptoms.
In a lot of situations, younger people go a long time before getting the correct diagnosis, because doctors rarely consider Alzheimer’s to be a possibility during midlife. More often than not, doctors will say that memory loss happens due to a huge amount of stress people aged 30 or 40 go through.
Myth #3: AD Symptoms Go Hand in Hand with Aging
As we get older, it’s normal for our memory to get a bit worse and for us to become somewhat forgetful. However, if this forgetfulness begins to interfere with our day-to-day activities and lives, and we become more and more disoriented, then we should take into consideration that there’s more to our symptoms than aging.
For example, forgetting your keys at home from time to time is fine—it can happen to anyone—but not being able to remember how to get to a place you visited a number of times before or forgetting what year it is, points to Alzheimer’s disease. The difference between old-age forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s is that the latter gets worse with time, and eventually takes away your ability to not only think, but also eat, talk, and function normally, in general.
So, even though some memory loss is okay as we begin to age, Alzheimer’s symptoms are definitely not an inevitable part of aging.
If you suspect that you or someone you love has Alzheimer’s disease, then make sure to react fast and talk to your doctor about possible treatment. While there’s no official cure for AD, your doctor can prescribe medication that might help with memory, thinking, talking, and certain behavioral problems.
Know someone suffering from Alzheimer’s? Don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Best and his Neuroscience Centar team, and schedule a consultation to decide the best course of action for your loved one.
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