Understanding Alzheimer's

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form, accounting for as much as 70 percent, of “dementia.” The disease destroys parts of the brain that control memory, thinking, language and judgment. Alzheimer’s symptoms appear gradually and get worse over time. Symptoms usually start with difficulty remembering new information. In advanced stages, symptoms include confusion, mood and behavior changes. In advanced Alzheimer’s, the person is unable to perform basic life tasks and care can place great demands of time and cost on families and caregivers. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but recent advances in research have provided treatments that can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve quality of life.

Other forms of dementia include:

  • Vascular dementia

    Vascular dementia, considered the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, results from injuries to the vessels supplying blood to the brain, often after a stroke or series of strokes. Vascular dementia and vascular cognitive impairment arise as a result of risk factors that similarly increase the risk for stroke) including atrial fibrillation, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. The symptoms of vascular dementia can be similar to those of Alzheimer’s, and both conditions can occur at the same time. Symptoms of vascular dementia can begin suddenly and worsen or improve during one’s lifetime.

  • Lewy body dementia

    Lewy body dementia (LBD) is another common brain disorder in older people. LBD is caused by abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. These deposits, called Lewy bodies, can lead to problems with thinking, movement, behavior, and mood. For example, symptoms may include changes in alertness and attention, hallucinations, tremor, muscle stiffness, sleep problems, and memory loss.

  • Front temporal Dementia

    Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a rare disorder that affects the front (frontal lobes) and the sides (temporal lobes) of the brain. Because these regions often, but not always, shrink, brain imaging can be useful in diagnosis. There is no specific abnormality associated with all cases of FTD. In one type called Pick's disease, there are abnormal microscopic deposits called Pick bodies, but these are not always present.

How does Alzheimer’s impact African Americans?

Alzheimer’s is a serious disease. It is the only disease in the top 10 causes of death with no effective treatment or cure. African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as non-Hispanic white Americans. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death for all Americans- bypassing cancer and diabetes- and the 4th leading cause of death for older African Americans- and the numbers are growing! Often people think of memory loss and senility as natural and normal aspects of aging. It is not. Unfortunately, as a result, African-Americans who are more likely to get Alzheimer’s are often not diagnosed and do not receive the treatment and care they need.

By working together, standing up, and speaking out, we and the researchers we work with believe we can find a treatment and possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease. This means not only seeking additional fund for research but also raising our hands to be part of the research solution by volunteering for clinical trials.

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