With over six million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today, and that number expected to more than double by 2050, you likely know someone who has been directly impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. Although we know more about the disease today than we did a decade ago, we still do not completely understand what causes Alzheimer’s nor have we found a way to prevent or cure the disease. If you are interested in joining the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease, please join the team at German Law for our annual Alzheimer’s Walk on September 29, 2024.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder described by the National Institute on Aging as “a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” The neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex.
Alzheimer’s disease, the most prevalent form of dementia in the elderly, usually manifests its symptoms when someone is in their 60s, although there is an early onset form of the disease. Although it may take years for severe symptoms to fully develop, Alzheimer’s inevitably leads to significant damage to brain cells, resulting in both physical and mental impairments that require round-the-clock care. Well before reaching the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals affected by the disease will progressively require higher levels of caregiving.
What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
Unlike many other diseases, such as AIDS, experts do not believe Alzheimer’s has a single cause. Instead, they believe the disease is multi-faceted with several factors influencing the development of the disease. The complexity of the disease makes finding a cure, and even effective treatment for those suffering from the disease, more difficult. Risk factors believed to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Experts tell us that age is the greatest risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The older you are, the higher the risk of developing the disease. One in nine people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, and this figure rises to one in three for people over the age of 85.
- Experts also appear to agree that family plays a role in predicting who will develop Alzheimer’s disease. A family history of Alzheimer’s disease will increase your chance of getting the condition, particularly if it is a brother, sister, mother, or father who had/has the disease. The risk is greater if more than one family member has or has had the disease.
- Researchers have identified certain mutated genes associated with the disease. Anyone who inherits a copy of the APOE-e4 gene is at greater risk, and the risk is even greater if they inherit two copies of the gene. There are also deterministic genes that, if inherited, would guarantee the onset of the disease. This only accounts for around one percent of Alzheimer’s cases.
- There is evidence to suggest that head trauma may lead to Alzheimer’s disease, particularly repeated head trauma.
- The risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases if you suffer from conditions that can affect the heart, such as stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
- Latinos and African Americans are one and one-half to two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than Caucasians. The reason for this is unclear, although many think the higher rate of heart problems in Latinos and African Americans may be the cause.
Do We Have a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?
Despite a concerted effort by experts in various related fields around the world, we have yet to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s. While there are some medications on the market now that help slow the cognitive decline that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s for some people, we have yet to find a truly effective and universally reliable treatment regime, much less a cure. We have, however, seen some promising new treatments and medications in recent years that provide us with hope that a cure is just around the corner.
Alzheimer’s By the Numbers
The following figures published by the Alzheimer’s Association help shed some light on the prevalence of the disease and the impact it has on sufferers and their loved ones:
- 6 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease.
- By 2050, experts estimate that more than 13 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
- Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
- The lifetime risk for Alzheimer’s at age 45 is 1 in 5 for women and 1 in 10 for men.
- Unpaid caregivers provided an estimated 18 billion hours of care valued at $339.5 billion in 2022.
How Can I Get Involved in the 2024 Walk to End Alzheimer’s?
Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is full of flowers, each carried by someone committed to ending the disease. The flowers symbolize the determination to keep going and not allow obstacles to stop the search for a cure. Participants in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s raised over $100 million in 2023 to help raise awareness and support the fight for a cure.
There are several ways you can get involved with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. If you live in the Grand Forks area, you can join the team at German Law and participate in the walk held on September 29, 2024 starting at 9:00 at Sertoma Park located at 3300 11th Ave S. Contact Sarah Flesberg at (701) 356- 4976 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you are unable to walk with us, you can still support the team by navigating to our team’s page and make a donation. You can even start your own friends and family team and actively fundraise to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s. The team at German Law appreciates your support!
Join Us for the 2024 Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Please join us for the 2024 Walk to End Alzheimer’s or support the fight to find a cure by making a donation on our team page. Contact the Grand Forks estate planning attorneys at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 if you have estate planning questions or concerns.
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