There are a lot of facts and figures that are thrown around about Alzheimer's disease. Without a doubt, this is a disease that you have probably heard about before but the figures and facts about this disease are likely new for you. In this article, we will explore some of the most shocking and troubling facts and statistics about this disease.
3 facts about Alzheimer's you need to know
Fact 1: Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging
One of the common misconceptions that I hear often in the hospital wards is the belief that Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a disease that you will automatically get the longer you live. This may be true with diseases like osteoporosis or dementia but Alzheimer's Disease is not a part of the normal aging process. In Alzheimer's Disease, the brain will experience degenerative changes that are irreversible so it will severely limit a patient's memory, cognition, personality and reduce their ability to live independently. This may sound a lot like dementia but these changes will occur more suddenly and greatly reduce the quality of life of the patient and their families.
Fact 2: There are reversible risk factors that reduce your chance for the disease
When it comes to a disease like AD, there are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors. The main risk factors that you are unable to change would be your age and your genetics. However, there are some factors that you can control and they can greatly reduce the chances of you eventually getting Alzheimer's disease. One of the significant controllable risk factors that you can do is to try to limit head trauma. The science shows that if you have a history of concussions or falls, you will have a much higher chance of developing these irreversible changes to the anatomy of your brain. Wearing seatbelts, helmets or walking aids can help decrease this event.
Another important risk factor that you need to watch out for would be your heart health. If you have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or a previous stroke, there is a good chance you will have AD in the future.
If you do your best to stop smoking, watching your diet and start exercising, you can reduce these risk factors and help reduce your chances of the disease.
Fact 3: Alzheimer's disease does not just affect you, it affects everyone around you
When it comes to a disease like AD, what many people do not realize is that the patient is not the only one affected by the disease. It is a disease that is debilitating and can be quite stressful for a partner or a family member to have to deal with. Of the 16 million Americans currently suffering from AD, nearly 80 percent of patients are treated at home. Only 10 percent of patients with AD will actually ever receive advanced nursing care from home. If you have a family member diagnosed with the disease, it is important to know what to expect. You may get quite frustrated or angry with your partner because of how much you may be relied upon. This can create a toxic situation. Therefore be honest and realistic with yourself when it comes to the therapy. Asking for help when you feel overwhelmed should not make you feel guilty or that you do not love the person afflicted with the disease.
Statistics about Alzheimer's that may shock you
The frequency of AD
At its current pace, AD is a disease that is diagnosed at a rate of about one new patient every 65 seconds. Predictions expect this number to increase to one person every 33 seconds by 2050 as the population continues to age.
It is believed that approximately 50 million people worldwide currently have AD. At the pace and shifts in the aging population that is expected, that would mean that by 2030, nearly 75 million people could be diagnosed with the disease and a staggering 132 million people could have the disease by 2050. True, a component of this could just be because the global population will rise in the next 20 years without a doubt. Diets and a shift towards more sedentary lifestyles can accelerate this dramatically, however, as patients will likely have heart disease, be obese and have high blood pressure; all controllable risk factors that can lead to AD.
The direction we are going in as a population
Alzheimer's Disease is currently the 6th leading cause of death worldwide and the only disease in the top 10 ranking that has increased in frequency. Between the years 2000 and 2014, the number of deaths attributed to Alzheimer's Disease increased by 89 percent. During this same time period, heart disease (the leading cause of death worldwide) actually dropped by 14 percent. This clearly shows that AD is on the rise and that we still do not have an adequate treatment strategy to help prevent the brain degeneration. When it comes to heart disease, patients are able to use a vast array of different hypertension medications and follow strict diets to help lower cholesterol. For AD, the true mechanisms of what causes the disease are still unknown so we are still unsure how to approach treatment strategies more effectively.
The funding on the way
What should be clear to you by now is that AD is becoming more frequent and it is deadly. This should suggest that the government has taken notice and attributed more funding to help researchers discover a cure for the disease. Unfortunately, this does not hold true. The National Institute of Health estimates that HIV research receives almost 3 times more in funding than Alzheimer's research while cancer research receives nearly 7 times the funding AD can receive.
Both HIV and cancer are diseases worthy of funding but we already have good treatment options currently for HIV after the introduction of HAART therapy where patients can live full and healthy lives even with HIV as long as they take medication. Cancers are dangerous as well but most types of cancers have good treatment strategies to help prolong or even completely cure the disease.