It's a joke at times: People tend to become forgetful as they get older.
But there is nothing funny about Alzheimer’s disease, an age-related brain condition that gradually destroys a person’s memory and thinking skills. It eventually prevents a person from being able to do simple tasks. Alzheimer’s disease progresses slowly, and the patient’s mental decline usually occurs in three classified stages: an early, preclinical stage with no symptoms, a middle stage with mild cognitive impairment and a final stage of Alzhimer’s dementia.
Generally if a person is older than 80, the time from diagnosis to death lasts three to four years. The disease can last for up to ten years if the person is younger.
Experts estimate that roughly five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Without a cure, that number will likely increase because the risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age, and census data shows the U.S. population is getting older.
While there is still no known cure for Alzheimer’s, researchers are growing more confident that someday it might be possible to delay, slow down or even prevent the disease.
And while there is also no definitive evidence about what can be done to prevent Alzheimer’s or age-related cognitive decline, scientists do say that a healthy lifestyle, as well as keeping your brain active, might help prevent Alzheimer’s.
They offer the following tips:
- Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables
- Be social
- Be intellectually active, including playing mental games and learning new skills and hobbies
- Lower your blood pressure
- Lower your cholesterol
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Control type 2 diabetes if you are diagnosed with the condition
Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci Tech Now North Carolina, a weekly science series that airs Tuesdays on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!