World Alzheimer’s Month is the international campaign by Alzheimer’s disease International (ADI) every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. World Alzheimer’s Month was launched in 2012. World Alzheimer’s Day is on 21 September each year. Globally, dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face, with nearly 50 million people living with dementia worldwide. To fight the global challenge of dementia it is imperative to raise understanding, compassion and awareness of this debilitating condition
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition. It is one of the most common forms of dementia, a group of symptoms that lead to a decline in mental function severe enough to disrupt daily life. Alzheimer’s disease causes problems with a person’s memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities.
People with Alzheimer’s disease first develop subtle memory loss and personality changes that differs from normal age-related memory problems. In the early stages of the illness, people with Alzheimer’s disease are particularly susceptible to depression. As the disease progresses, memory loss worsens and decision-making becomes more difficult. A person with Alzheimer’s can become angry when family members try to help. Eventually, social life becomes more difficult, people may not recognize long-time friends or family members, and may become more isolated. In late stages of Alzheimer’s people begin to lose physical coordination and may need help with daily functions and taking care of themselves.
What causes Alzheimer’s? Scientists are not completely sure. Although scientists have conducted many studies, and more are ongoing, so far nothing has been proven to prevent or delay dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers have identified promising strategies and are learning more about what might—and might not—work.
We know that changes in the brain can occur many years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. These early brain changes point to a possible window of opportunity to prevent or delay debilitating memory loss and other symptoms of dementia. While research may identify specific interventions that will prevent or delay the disease in some people, it’s likely that many individuals may need a combination of treatments based on their own risk factors.
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with multiple risk factors. Some, like your age and genetics, are outside your control. However, there are six pillars for a brain-healthy lifestyle that are within your control. The more you strengthen each of the six pillars in your daily life, the longer—and stronger—your brain will stay working and the more likely you’ll be able to reduce your risk of developing dementia.
- Regular exercise.
- Social engagement.
- Healthy diet
- Mental stimulation
- Quality sleep
- Stress management
Treating hearing loss can lower risk of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease and untreated hearing loss can be intricately connected — one of the hallmarks of the disease is the decreased ability to communicate. One recent study has even linked hearing loss to an increase in dementia, making it a major risk factor.
Many times, Alzheimer’s patients in the later stages of the disease experience a decrease in cognitive function, often not responding to others or to stimuli in the environment we would expect them to notice. Conversations go on without them, questions are asked but remain unanswered. When Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss coexist, the situation is more complicated. Hearing loss can challenge the patient’s ability to interact with the world around them, much like the dementia symptoms. Unless they are aware of the hearing loss and facilitate getting treatment, caregivers will find it difficult — if not impossible — to communicate with these patients.
Diagnosing hearing loss in someone suffering from Alzheimer’s can be a huge relief for the patient, their family and caregivers. Some of the problems that were once blamed on the dementia progression can now be attributed to the hearing loss, and hearing loss has a variety of treatment options that may improve communication. Research from the Better Hearing Institute demonstrates the use of hearing aids improves quality of life for individuals, including emotional health, mental ability, physical health and a sense of independence.
Southeast Medical Hearing Centers
Acknowledge World Alzheimer’s Month with us at Southeast Medical Hearing Centers this September. If you suspect you have hearing loss, it’s never too early to get your hearing tested. Contact us to set up a hearing test so you can know for sure if a hearing loss is present and start preventing Alzheimer’s now.