With more than five million Americans living with the disease, most likely you know someone affected by Alzheimer’s, either as a patient or a caregiver.
By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older (older people are most at risk) is predicted to reach 7.1 million. In fact, every 60 seconds, someone is diagnosed with the disease and that number will jump to a diagnosis every 33 seconds by 2050.
All of the numbers associated with Alzheimer’s, it seems, are mind numbing. By year’s end, the disease will have cost our nation $203 billion. That number is expected to grow exponentially over the coming decades, topping $1.2 trillion annually by 2050.
A type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, behavior and motor skills, Alzheimer’s starts in the hippocampus, the area of the brain where new memories are stored. Thus, short-term memory loss is the most prevalent early symptom of the disease.
Under the microscope, the impact is undeniable as plaques—abnormal clusters of protein fragments—develop between nerve cells. These dead and dying cells form tangles. Looking at Alzheimer’s in its infinitesimal form it’s easy to see how thought slows, clouds and finally stops altogether as the disease creeps through the brain, cell by cell.
The disease is relentless in its attack, spreading, eventually, to all parts of the brain not only causing nerve-cell death, but also tissue loss and a dramatic shrinking of the brain.
Losing your keys or forgetting the name of a friend or loved one are some of the very early indicators that something could be wrong, but once the disease spreads, it can affect the sense of smell, balance, even the ability to make sense of what everyday objects or to understand a joke.
But disease has no sense of humor, eventually depriving those afflicted with the ability to talk, walk, even to swallow.
Alzheimer’s is a disease with no cure. Alzheimer’s is progressive. Alzheimer’s is fatal and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Below, you’ll see a glimpse of the physical, emotional and financial toll the disease takes on the patient as well as the caregiver. (Click the infographic to enlarge.)
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