Tuesday, September 1, 2020
CMO Message - Alzheimer's disease
Our personal experience in life is fundamentally shaped by what we remember and what we don’t. For nearly 6 million people in the US today, their brain’s ability to remember and process information is impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. This is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts parts of the brain that control memory, thinking ability, and language; and the condition worsens over time. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s and medications available today are typically used to manage symptoms and potentially slow progression.
Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease including memory loss and difficulty completing cognitive tasks usually appear after age 60 but can also show up at an earlier age. Women are two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to men which is attributed to women typically living longer. In the late stages of the disease, people may lose their ability to independently complete activities of daily life and communicate with others. This debilitating condition ultimately is one of the top 10 leading causes of death for all adults.
The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 14 million by the year 2060, with increases greatest amongst Hispanics and African Americans. While this disparity is still being researched, the increased risk in these communities is thought to be related to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, exposure to adversity, increased risk of poverty and lower education. Therefore, Alzheimer’s disease is not just an individual issue, it’s also a symptom of societal inequalities.
Despite the staggering number of people affected by this condition, developing Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. Severe decline of thinking abilities is not an inevitable fate. Some factors that affect cognition, such as genetics, cannot be controlled but many lifestyle factors that contribute to risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease can be improved.
- Rosemary Ku, MD/MBA/MPA