With over 3 million recorded cases per year, Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia. It develops as the connections between brain cells deteriorate, leading to memory loss and confusion. Though it’s commonly believed that Alzheimer’s only affects the elderly, around 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 experience early-onset Alzheimer’s.

“As we get older, there is some benign forgetfulness, such as occasionally forgetting where you put the keys. But if it’s persistent, and noticeable by your loved ones or friends, if you keep asking the same questions over… that means short-term memory is decreasing. Repeating answers, repeating questions, that would probably be a tip-off that you should get assessed by your primary and then get referred over to a neurologist.

Because we do have treatments – they don’t cure the disease, but they slow it down. We’ve shown that the medicines can delay referral to a nursing home by a couple of years. So there are things that we can do, and it’s only getting better as the pharmaceutical companies are looking into it.”

Gregory D. Sambuchi, MD
Chief of Neurology , Mount St. Mary’s Hospital

The most common symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, which during the early stages can be minor. However, as time goes on and the brain cells continue to decay, the negative effects tend to worsen.

People with more severe cases of Alzheimer’s have difficulty participating in conversations, can develop depression or anxiety, and often struggle to operate multiple muscle groups simultaneously. As these symptoms develop, patients tend to become confused and frustrated. In the United States, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death.

Treatment Methods for Alzheimer’s

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, as the damaged brain cells cannot be repaired. However, this is not to say that patients cannot be helped through treatment, which may slow the deterioration of the brain and help maintain mental function.

The leading medications that are prescribed to fight Alzheimer’s are cholinesterase inhibitors, which work to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, an important chemical for memory. If symptoms continue to worsen, doctors may prescribe stronger medications that focus more on decreasing the prevalence of symptoms in an attempt to improve the quality of life.

One of the most important methods of treatment is surrounding yourself with loved ones that understand what you are going through. Having family members or caretakers to assist you on days when symptoms are particularly bad helps you live a more enjoyable life than if you were dealing with Alzheimer’s on your own.

Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York

Summer solstice marks the day of the year with the most light, and the Alzheimer’s Association recognizes this as the perfect time to shine light in the lives of those dealing with the darkness of Alzheimer’s.

June 20 marks The Longest Day, a fundraising and caregiving opportunity to promote Alzheimer’s research and community programs. Find out how to participate in this event and others in our area, visit alz.org/wny.


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