LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The month of November is known as Alzheimer's Awareness Month.
At the time it was designated in 1983, there were fewer than 2 million people with the disease.
Today, it’s estimated there are nearly 6 million Americans living with Alzheimers and that number is growing as the baby boomers age.
Dr. Gabriela Arandia, Ph.D., is a research Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience and the Garrison Institute on Aging at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She says Alzheimer’s Disease is thought to be caused by an accumulation of certain proteins that interrupt brain signals and cause damage. The result, she says, “There’s atrophy as it gets to all different parts of the brain.” She says there are certain factors that put some people at greater risk for the disease.
She explains, "Age is a big risk factor. Alzheimer’s predominantly affects older populations, age 65 and up. But early on, the disease takes 2 decades to manifest in the symptoms. So it could really start in the 40s. Gender is another factor. Women account for two- thirds of people with Alzheimer’s Disease."
Dr. Arandia says it’s good to know the symptoms early because there are things that can be one to delay the progression of those symptoms. For one, she says research has shown that diet, particularly a heart-heatlhy diet, can be beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients. She explains symptoms can include the kind of memory loss that disrupts daily functioning. She adds, “And it can affect mood and behaviors. So that’s where there’s more cause for concern and you should see a health care provider."
Dr. Arandia describes Allzheimer’s Disease like this, "It’s a huge public health issue. It affects 5.8 million Americans and it really affedts the whole family. So when we include caregivers, that affects 16 million Americans and that affects a lot of people in our community.” That’s why the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center is making an effort to bring awareness to our community this month.
Dr. Arandia says many events are scheduled to help families affected in this area.
One of those is set for this Wednesday, November 13th, at 2:00. That will include a Dementia Simulation so families can experience what it is like for their loved ones to suffer from dementia. That is followed by a program on healthy aging. That’s at Carillon Windsong at 4002 16th street and it’s all free.
Then on Thursday, a week from today, an attorney will lead a presentation at the Garrison Institute’s southwest campus at 6630 South Quaker, suite G. This event is intended to help families understand the legal and financial planning for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. But this one requires an RSVP. Just call (806)743-7821 to register your seat at his event.