5 myths about Alzheimer’s disease
Despite being the seventh cause of death among Americans and the single largest risk to the health of our Medicare system, Alzheimer’s disease isn’t widely understood.
“Callers to our helpline sometimes won’t even give us their name,” said Meg Donahue, director of community engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. “For some, acknowledging their concerns about memory loss may be an admission of their worst fears: that they have Alzheimer’s disease.”
Alzheimer’s deserves its fearsome reputation. It kills more people annually than breast and prostate cancers combined. Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with the disease for which there is no prevention, no treatment and no cure.
It’s also one of the most costly diseases. Caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias currently costs one of every five Medicare dollars and is expected to rise to $1 of $3 by 2050 if a cure isn’t found. Until one is found, it’s important to know these common myths about Alzheimer’s disease:
Myth 1: Memory loss is a normal part of aging.
It’s normal to have occasional memory challenges as we age, such as forgetting the name of someone you just met. But frequent memory loss from Alzheimer’s disrupts your daily life, such as needing to rely on memory aids or family members for things that one previously handled themselves.
Myth 2: Alzheimer’s is not fatal.
Alzheimer’s disease is America’s seventh-leading cause of death. It slowly destroys brain cells, ultimately leading to loss of body functions and death.
Myth 3: The risk of Alzheimer’s is the same for everyone.
While the main risk factor for Alzheimer’s is aging, there are populations that are at greater risk. African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to be diagnosed, and Hispanic-Latinos are 50 percent more likely. And, as a group, two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
Myth 4: Alzheimer’s only affects the elderly.
An estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. under age 65 are living with Alzheimer’s.
Myth 5: I can ignore the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and get by.
Some people are able to temporarily work around memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s by compensating in other ways. However, delaying diagnosis is detrimental because it also delays access to medications, support services, planning and other helpful resources.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s and services available, call 970-256-1274, visit www.alz.org/co or call the free 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900.
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