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Dr. Wood: 3 things you need to know about Alzheimer’s disease

Did you know that one of the top 10 questions people wanted to ask at the presidential debate last month was, “What’s your plan to tackle the large public health crisis: Alzheimer’s disease?” It did not end up being asked of the candidates, but it is a good one.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that over time impacts memory, thinking and the ability to do everyday tasks. In Thurston County, Alzheimer’s disease is the third leading cause of death. This means more people die from this disease than other diseases like stroke or diabetes. Many people are living with Alzheimer’s in our community.

We do not have a cure for Alzheimer’s. We hope for good news as researchers and others work hard to learn more about preventing and treating Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, we can raise awareness of the disease and support early detection.

Here are three important facts you should know about Alzheimer’s.

▪ Signs and symptoms can vary from person to person, but there are some more common ones. These include forgetting things recently learned, asking for the same information repeatedly, getting lost, having trouble handling money and paying bills, misplacing things, having trouble joining or following a conversation, having trouble doing everyday activities such as driving, taking longer than before to do usual activities, changes in mood like increased anxiety or depression, and participating less (or not at all) in usual work or social activities.

These signs and symptoms do not happen once in a while — they happen frequently.

▪ Memory loss is not an inevitable part of aging. There are typical age-related changes that can occur, but they are different from what you see with Alzheimer’s. Examples of normal, age-related changes may include having trouble finding your keys, but you can remember when and where you last had them so you can retrace your steps. Or you may forget to pay a bill, but that is different from having such difficulty with numbers or budgeting that you cannot manage money.

▪ Brain health is an important aspect of being healthy. We still have a lot to learn about preventing Alzheimer’s. But the following are important no matter what age you are: eating healthy foods, being physically active, staying mentally active by reading, learning new things and interacting with others through games, events or other activities.

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Take some time to learn more by visiting one of these online or social media resources:

Websites: alz.org or https://alzheimers.acl.gov/

E-Training: http://training.alz.org/

Facebook: facebook.com/actionalz

Twitter: @alzassociation

Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, woodr@co.thurston.wa.us.

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