Approximately 4 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – a degenerative condition that affects the brain, causing the person to forget things and eventually to become unable to perform everyday tasks.
Many Americans dismiss the warning signs of Alzheimer’s, believing that these symptoms are a normal part of aging. They are diagnosed too late and miss the opportunity to get the best care possible. This is of even greater concern for African-Americans, who are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than other populations.
While researchers don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s disease, they have identified factors that signal a greater risk, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of exercise and diabetes.
African-Americans have a higher rate of vascular disease (diseases involving blood vessels, including heart attack and stroke) – one of the suspected risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease attacks the brain, specifically the part of the brain associated with memory. As the nerve cells in the brain associated with memory die off, the person suffering with the disease will lose not only their ability to remember, but also their ability to learn new things.
Symptoms include difficulty learning and remembering new information, forgetting to pay bills, take medication, or do everyday activities they were previously in the habit of doing; Getting lost going to familiar places, such as not remembering how to get to the grocery store they’ve been going to for many years or a friend’s house they’ve known all their life.
In the mild stage, the person will still be able to do other basic activities, such as driving, eating and drinking, etc. So, don’t be fooled because they still function in many ways as “normal”. These are definite signs that the disease is progressing and should be dealt with immediately.
Since memories that have been in the brain longer are more ingrained, the person will lose memory starting from the present and working back to the past. Many persons suffering from Alzheimer’s will remember, and be able to describe in vivid detail, memories from their childhood, while at the same time not knowing what day or even year they are living in.
It is a proven fact that recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and getting the person treatment early on, may help slow the progression of the disease. With this in mind, the sooner the person gets help, the better.