Did you know that here in Utah, nearly 50 percent of the population is helping care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia?
Dr. Amy Khan, Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah says, “Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common causes of dementia. It represents about 60-70 percent of cases.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease associated with memory loss, cognitive decline and a disruption in daily living.
Khan says in 2019 Utah ranked 9th out of the top 10 states in death rates from Alzheimer’s. She says women are also more likely to die from the disease.
Khan says the diagnosis is also becoming more common. Roughly 1 out of 2 elderly adults may have some form of dementia at their time of death.
The cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, and there’s no known cure. But there are some early signs and things you can do to stop or slow the disease’s progression.
“It’s a good time to assess. Have there been any changes in behavior, changes in thinking, memory loss, even odd or awkward social skills that you can notice,” says Dr. Khan.
The top 5 early signs of Alzheimer’s are identified as:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges with planning, problem solving or handling money
- Difficulties with completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place and no longer recognizing familiar faces
- Difficulty with balance and judging distance
“Maybe it’s fender benders or tripping or dropping things. The key is to recognize a change from that individual’s baseline level of functioning,” says Kahn.
If these signs appear consistently, Khan says you should contact your medical provider. But there are some things she says we can all do right now to help prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia. She says, “Healthy behaviors can definitely improve brain health. These are similar behaviors to those that prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.”
Recommended healthy practices include:
- Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol
- Managing blood sugar
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Adopting a Mediterranean or low sodium diet
- Consuming alcohol in moderation
- Incorporate daily exercise
- Stay connected
Khan says not to forget that “Alzheimer’s and other dementia affects the whole family.”
With roughly 50 percent of Utahns providing unpaid care for someone suffering from dementia, caregivers should reach out to get support for themselves.