The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly increasing, and only roughly one in four people with the disease get diagnosed. According to the National Institute on Aging the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years after the age of 65. As the population ages, the disease impacts a greater percentage of people.
Currently, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds. It is estimated that by the middle of the century, someone in the U.S. will develop the disease every 33 seconds and the total number of people with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. could rise to as high as 16 million people by 2050.
Here are four things you should know.
- Alzheimer’s is fatal, but treatable. Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Upon diagnosis, many people assume nothing can be done to help them, but that’s not the case. In fact, some people will even downplay their symptoms to their care provider. But there are treatments that can stabilize symptoms temporarily so people can have a higher level of functioning for a longer period of time.
- Age is the greatest risk factor of developing Alzheimer’s. You may think Alzheimer’s runs in your family and you’re destined to get it. If you have a first-degree relative (a parent or sibling) who has the disease, your risk of being diagnosed is double compared to the general population. However, the greatest risk factor is age. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the likelihood of developing the disease doubles about every five years after the age of 65. And after the age of 85, the risk reaches close to 50 percent.
- Brain health matters and may make a difference. Adopting healthy habits can reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Eating a brain-healthy diet that includes dark, leafy vegetables and is low in saturated fats can help. Researchers have also found that being socially active, exercising and getting enough sleep can also improve your cognitive health.
- Forgetfulness is not the same thing as Alzheimer’s. Who hasn’t forgotten their wallet or temporarily lost their keys? But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have Alzheimer’s. Health care professionals get concerned when there is an impact on a person’s day-to-day activities, or if it’s affecting their job or if they can’t manage their finances when they were able to before. It’s time to see a doctor when you forget the big things, things you would not have forgotten before. If you have a standing appointment or date and begin forgetting that, it might be time to seek help.