World Alzheimer’s Month was launched in 2012, making this September the 10th anniversary celebration. World Alzheimer’s Month is a month-long international campaign by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) to advocate, raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. WHO estimates that worldwide, over 50 million people have dementia, and nearly 10 million new cases are reported every year. What have we learned about Alzheimer’s in the last ten years? In retrospect, we have learned quite a lot.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition and the most common form of dementia. It occurs as brain cells become damaged and struggle to communicate with one another. Over time symptoms lead to a decline in mental function severe enough to affect memory, carry on conversation and disrupt daily activities. This condition affects a person’s ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate, and carry out daily activities.
Alzheimer’s disease often most commonly starts subtly and the degenerative effects on the brain can begin years before symptoms are noticeable. People with Alzheimer’s disease first develop as minor memory loss and personality changes. It is common for people to suffer from depression and as the disease progresses, memory loss worsens, and decision-making becomes more of a challenge. Often as the disease becomes at its height, those who suffer from this condition, may not recognize long-time friends or family members, causing social isolation. In this way, this disease is almost equally difficult for the loved one’s of the victims of Alzheimer’s, as they feel they have lost their loved ones even while they are still living. Still, they need to provide full time care for their loved one.
We now understand much more about how to prevent Alzheimer’s than we did a decade ago. There are multiple healthy lifestyle choices which are now understood to potentially decrease dementia risk. These include:
- Regular exercise.
- Social engagement.
- Healthy diet
- Mental stimulation
- Quality sleep
- Stress management
Ten years ago, a blood test for Alzheimer’s was but a dream. Currently researchers are very close to developing a simple blood test to detect signs of Alzheimer’s both early and accurately. This has the potential to provide less invasive and more affordable testing for this serious condition and has the potential to provide early detection. This would give those affected and their families affected by Alzheimer’s, more time to plan for care and support in the future.
Treating hearing loss can lower risk of Alzheimer’s
It may be hard to believe at first, but hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease are closely related. First, untreated hearing loss can be misconstrued as early onset dementia. This occurs when a person seems to be disinterested and confused when speaking to them. This could be from an untreated hearing loss, but the truth is that not being able to hear can increase the stress on the brain, aiding in damage to brain cells which can ultimately contribute to dementia.
Hearing Loss and the Impact on the Brain
While we hear with our ears, understanding and comprehension occurs in the brain. As hearing loss develops slowly, we slowly lose more and more parts of words and eventually phrases and sentences. The brain must work overtime to fill in these gaps which leads to exhaustion, and stress in communication. People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to avoid social situations and suffer from under activity and chronic depression. These side effects of hearing loss are major factors which also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In fact, a prominent Johns Hopkins study found that a mild hearing loss doubled the risk of developing dementia. The more severe the hearing loss, the study identified a higher risk, with a moderate hearing loss tripling the risk and a severe hearing loss creating a five-fold risk.
A Higher Quality of Life
While there is no cure for hearing loss it can be treated effectively with hearing aids. Research from the Better Hearing Institute discovered that the use of hearing aids can improve quality of life for individuals. This includes, emotional health, mental ability, physical health, and a sense of independence. If you suspect you have hearing loss, it’s never too early to get your hearing tested. Acknowledge World Alzheimer’s Month and schedule a hearing test today!