Take Part in World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month This September
Throughout the month of September you may notice people wearing purple ribbons. These tiny ribbons aren’t being worn as part of a new fashion trend. They are being worn as part of World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
In 2012, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) launched a worldwide campaign to increase awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia, while also decreasing the stigma that is often associated with these types of disease. Wearing the purple ribbon throughout the month of September encourages people who may not understand Alzheimer’s disease to learn more about it.
To celebrate World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we have provided general information and statistics on Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as information on current research that is being conducted and resources that are available to help those impacted by this disease. It is our hope that the information provided will help encourage people to learn more about this disease.
General Facts and Statistics About Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
These quick general statistics, provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, will give you a better understanding of how many people are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Approximately 5.7 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Of those 5.7 million, approximately 200,000 are under the age of 65.
- Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in America. It currently kills more people per year than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.
- Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are the only disease/illness in the top 10 causes of death in the United States that does not have a cure and cannot be prevented.
- Approximately every 65 seconds someone in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking a Closer Look at Alzheimer’s Disease
Classified as a neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s disease destroys and eventually kills the cells in the brain. Damage is usually caused by the formation of plaque and thick tangles that form or develop in the pathways of the brain. When this happens, it causes problems with memory, critical thinking and the ability to perform day-to-day tasks.
Alzheimer’s disease is considered a progressive brain disorder. This means that symptoms start out and progress in severity. The rate of progression for Alzheimer’s disease varies from patient to patient. Some patients’ symptoms progress rapidly over the course of several months while other people’s symptoms progress at a slower rate over the course of years.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease vary from person to person. Some of the more common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Difficulty or inability to remember new information
- Impaired judgement or inability to perform complex tasks
- Problems recognizing faces or other objects
- Difficulty with speaking, writing or reading
- Dramatic changes to personality that are not associated with other illnesses
Understanding the Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Dementia is a general term that is applied to any type of condition that directly impacts cognitive functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia.
Other forms of dementia include:
- Huntington’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Lewy body dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Alcoholic dementia
- Vascular dementia
- Fortotemporal dementia
A person may have more than one form of dementia. In fact, most people who suffer from one form of dementia will develop another form within their lifetime.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease
No cure is available for Alzheimer’s disease. Once the cells in the brain die, the damage that is caused cannot be reversed.
Even though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are some treatment options that can slow the progression of the disease or help individuals learn how to cope with some of the issues that arise from the disease.
Current treatment options that are used to help Alzheimer’s patients include:
- Use of cholinesterase inhibitor drugs, such as Aricept, Exelon, and Cognex, to help provide symptom relief and slow the disease progression
- Use of NMDA receptor antagonist to relieve symptoms
- Use of medications to help improve sleep
- Use of antipsychotics to help improve behavioral changes
- Physical therapy to improve balance and motor skills
- Music therapy to help improve mood and behavior
A Cure for Alzheimer’s May be Available in the Future
Researchers all across the globe have spent countless hours not only studying Alzheimer’s but looking for a possible cure. No cure has been discovered for Alzheimer’s and other similar neurodegenerative disorders, but recent breakthroughs in medical research suggest that in the future a cure will be found.
The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine recently published a medical study that suggests that a specific type of drug known as PARP inhibitors could eventually be used to not only treat Alzheimer’s and other similar brain disorders, but it could prevent them. PARP inhibitors are used to offer therapeutic relief to cancer patients, but in the future they could be used to help patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ASL), and other forms of frontotemporal degeneration disorders.
Another medical study released by medical researchers from the Third Military Medical University in China and the University of South Australia provides additional hope for a future Alzheimer’s cure. Researchers collaborated and discovered a very specific signal pathway located within the cells of the brain. When the cells create too much of a specific protein it stops the signal pathway from working properly and causes those cells to deteriorate and eventually die. The determination and death of these specific cells causes a number of neurological degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In finding this specific pathway and understanding how it works, medical researchers were able to create a drug that could eventually stop cell degeneration and work to improve memory and learning in people with these types of brain disorders. The drug, which is still in the developmental stages, hasn’t been created yet, but this type of medical research provides hope that an eventual cure can and will be discovered.
Resources Available to Help Alzheimer’s Patients and Their Loved Ones
There are a number of great resources that are available to help people understand more about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This information is great for people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers who care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, or just anyone who wants to learn more about this disease.
Some helpful resources include:
- Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral Center (ADEAR) – www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers
- The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center – https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving
- Alzheimer’s Association – www.alz.org
- Caregiving 101 (free courses tailored made for caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease) – https://www.caregiving101.com/
- Alzheimer’s Disease International – https://www.alz.co.uk/
You can make a difference in the world by taking part in Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. When you commit to taking part in this campaign, you are helping destigmatize this disease by raising awareness and educating people on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. So wear a purple ribbon and use the information found here to help educate others on this extremely misunderstood disease.