Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's can affect anyone - even those as young as 30.
We take an in depth look to see how to diagnose, treat, and cope with Alzheimer's and Dementia.

Alzheimer's affects an estimated 8000 Alaskans, and more than 5.4 million Americans as a whole. But what is Alzheimer's? Joan Adam's, the Education Specialist with the Fairbanks Branch of the Alzheimer's Resource of Alaska explains.

"Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a collection of symptoms that can be reflective in people in their brains."

Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses different types of dementias. Adams went on to talk about why it is important to know which type you may have.

"So it's important for senior people to figure out which kind, because if I have B12 or thyroid or electrolyte, those are things that can be fixed if we get the right kind of intervention. Some of them are progressive with regard to brain change; vascular dementia is very different because it still has dementia symptoms but it's about blood flow, so it has a different dynamic."

Most people believe Alzheimer's is an "old person" disease, but the reality is that people as young as 30 can be diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer's as well.

"We have two kinds of Alzheimer's disease. We have the early onset that happens to younger people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and we have the late onset that happens to people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. The early onset that happens to younger people does have a genetic component. That being said, it's not absolute. One of the challenges about brain conditions is that even though we think we know this and this and this, there are always exceptions to the rule."

Adam's suggests a few ways to slow the onset of Alzheimer's, in addition to early diagnosis.

"Healthy lifestyle, exercise, moderate exercise, getting blood into the brain, eating a good diet, being healthy, using our brain, learning brand new things helps make brain connections."