Thursday, September 20, 2012

World Alzheimer's Day is September 21st

Friday, September 21st is World Alzheimer's Day and throughout the month several organizations are attempting to raise awareness for the different forms of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is named after the man who first described the disease, Alois Alzheimer. This disease "destroys brain cells and nerves disrupting the transmitters which carry messages in the brain, particularly those responsible for storing memories" ( Part of the degenerative aspect of the disease causes the brain to actually shrink and the brain becomes unable to produce certain chemicals that help transfer information. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's reports that "5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's" and "[e]very 68 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer's disease. At current rates, experts believe the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s will quadruple to as many as 16 million by the year 2050" (

While you may be familiar with the terms "Alzheimer's" and "dementia", what you may not know is that dementia is actually a classification that encompasses several different forms of diseases with common characteristics, of which Alzheimer's is possibly the most well-known and which seems to account for the largest amount of dementia cases. Other forms of dementia include:
  • Vascular dementia -- which results from damaged blood vessels that impact the supply of oxygen to brain cells
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies -- which results from an abnormal collection of protein (known as Lewy bodies) in the nerve cells of the brain resulting in degeneration and death of those cells
  • Fronto-temporal dementia -- a more rare situation in which the frontal lobe of the brain is most affected and which typically occurs in younger individuals (in their forties or fifties).
Dementia diseases are personalized, so two people may not exhibit symptoms in quite the same way. However, there are broad early symptoms that typically apply to most forms of dementia:
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgement
  • Problems with keeping track of things
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative (
There is no sure way to determine if someone is at risk for dementia, but some factors that could indicate a risk are a family history of others with the disease, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, head injury, heart disease, or being overweight ( If you are concerned that you or someone you know might be developing symptoms of dementia, please consult a doctor. There are also associations that can help individuals and families manage dementia. Here are a few places to go for more information:
If you have other resources or information to about dementia, please feel free to share them in a comment!

No comments: