2007-08-02 / Health & Wellness

Alzheimer's is 21st-century crisis

By Arnold Bresky, MD Special to the Acorn

Alzheimer's disease has reached crisis proportions in the United States, with incidence, prevalence and mortality all on the rise, according to the 2007 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report released in March by the Alzheimer's Association at the organization's annual public policy forum. At the present rate, one in 85 people will have the braindestroying disease in 40 years.

There are now more than 5 million people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's Association has projected an increase of 16 million cases by 2050 unless preventive measures are taken.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. One person is now diagnosed with dementia every seven seconds. One in every four American families is affected by dementia. The incidence of dementia is one in 1,000 before age 65 and one in 20 after age 65.

More than $100 billion is spent per year on dementia, which is about 10 percent of all healthcare expenditures.

Dementia is the loss of mental functions in three or more of the following nine areas of mental activity: memory, language, perception, putting theoretical knowledge into practice, calculations, conceptual or semantic knowledge, executive functions, personality or social behavior, and emotional awareness or expression.

Early diagnosis and treatment is critical. The Brain Longevity Center has brain scans that can detect Alzheimer's disease without symptoms 10 years in advance with 90 percent accuracy.

The following symptoms may be early signs of dementia: forgetfulness, inability to learn new information, depression, getting lost going to familiar places or difficulty in managing finances, planning meals, and/or taking medication on schedule

The stages of dementia include cognitive and then functional and behavioral. Behavioral disturbances cause great distress to caregivers and are the most frequent reason for hospitalization of Alzheimer's patients. The following are common behavioral manifestations: delusions, apathy, depression, sundowning, euphoria, agitation, sleep disturbance, wandering and anxiety- that is, a sense of discomfort or restlessness.

The good news is that physicians now know how to protect aging brains. The symptoms of dementia can be delayed for 3 to 5 years through healthy lifestyles and behavior modification. Drugs are necessary, but they are not sufficient.

The brain can grow new brain cells and connections. The brain can compensate for damage caused by disease and strokes.

There are two causes of reversible dementia: depression and chronic stress.

The best proven prevention strategies are physical activity, mental activity, social activity and good cardiovascular health.

The defense mechanism of denial should be avoided. What is good for the heart is good for the brain- use it or lose it.

Memory is life. It is not about how long a person lives, but how well they live. A person's quality of life can increase at any age, even if they are suffering from dementia. It is never too late.

The Brain Longevity Center in Thousand Oaks is a communitybased integrative medical approach to memory impairment that was cofounded by Bresky and Dr. Lorne Label.

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