As a senior citizen one of my most serious concerns is my mental functioning. My mother and her sister were afflicted with forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, my father’s father suffered cognitive problems in the 1940’s. Finally, my father’s sister and her daughter, my cousin had forms of dementia. It runs in my family and judging by the number of cases reported, there is a chance it runs in yours, too.
Here is what Alzheimers.gov has to say on the subject:
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. People with Alzheimer’s also experience changes in behavior and personality.
More than 6 million Americans, many of them age 65 and older, are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease. That’s more individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease than the population of a large American city. Many more people experience Alzheimer’s in their lives as family members and friends of those with the disease.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease — changes in thinking, remembering, reasoning, and behavior — are known as dementia. That’s why Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as “dementia.” Other diseases and conditions can also cause dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common cause of dementia in older adults.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. It’s the result of complex changes in the brain that start years before symptoms appear and lead to the loss of brain cells and their connections.
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not yet fully understood, but probably include a combination of:
- Age-related changes in the brain, like shrinking, inflammation, blood vessel damage, and breakdown of energy within cells, which may harm neurons and affect other brain cells.
- Changes or differences in genes, which may be passed down by a family member. Both types of Alzheimer’s — the very rare early-onset type occurring between age 30 and mid-60s, and the most common late-onset type occurring after a person’s mid-60s — can be related to a person’s genes in some way. Many people with Down syndrome, a genetic condition, will develop Alzheimer’s as they age and may begin to show symptoms in their 40s.
- Health, environmental, and lifestyle factors that may play a role, such as exposure to pollutants, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.