Here’s how Floridians can learn more about Alzheimer’s disease

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Alzheimer’s disease affects many of us; Some are caregivers or have a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

According to the website of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s is a “progressive brain disorder that impacts memory, thinking and language skills, and the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. … More than 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Next month, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is hosting an online conference for Floridians who want to learn more about the disease. It’s part of a national “tour”.

On WMNF’s Tuesday Café on January 25, Seán Kinane interviewed Chris Schneider, director of communications for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

According to its website, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides “critical assistance to individuals confronting dementia, caregivers and their families. … The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), a national not-for-profit foundation provides optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers.”

The AFA also provides online memory screenings.

You can contact their social services team through the AFA’s national toll-free helpline, 866-232-8484.

Listen to the full show here:

Watch the interview here:

The Five Falsehoods of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to Scheider, there are five major myths surrounding Alzheimer’s disease to be wary of. On the show, he debunked each of these myths.

Myth: Alzheimer’s disease is just a part of aging

Alzheimer’s doesn’t happen to everyone, and it isn’t something that naturally comes with age. It is a degenerative brain disorder, affecting 6.2 million people in the United States.

Myth: Alzheimer’s only affects senior citizens

Fact: While the majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are considered to be senior citizens, it does not affect them exclusively. According to Schneider, about 10% of the affected population has “young onset” Alzheimer’s, which can affect adults in their 40s and 50s. In rare instances, it can even affect adults in their 30s. At any age, Schneider says, issues regarding memory and brain function should be checked out.

Myth: There is nothing that can be done for those affected by Alzheimer’s

Fact: While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s yet, there are still options for those living with the disease. Many are still able to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, working with care providers and assorted treatment options. Schneider reported that this fiscal year, an estimated $3 billion is being spent on Alzheimer’s research.

In addition, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America funded a $1 million grant to the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. The Institutes are addressing some of the more dangerous symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia, including hallucinations, aggression and delusions. The goal, Schneider said, is to develop new medicines and treatments for these symptoms, so that patients can be treated at home rather than being confined to professional care centers.

Myth: You cannot reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s; it’s genetic

Fact: While there is a genetic component to Alzheimer’s that can increase the risk of developing it, there are plenty of mitigation tactics that everyone can take. According to Scheider, it’s all about lifestyle choices. Eating well and exercising regularly, not smoking and limiting alcohol intake are all basic choices that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Perhaps most importantly, he said, is remaining socially active as much as possible. Retaining brain function by exercising socially can keep the mind sharp. Learning new skills and continuing to work on brain and memory functions is another good strategy.

Myth: All memory impairments are associated with Alzheimer’s disease

While memory impairments are a common sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are not an immediate association. Other issues can impair brain and memory functions, and these issues are often treatable. Vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues, depression, sleep apnea and even stress can cause memory impairments.

However, as Schneider stressed, memory screenings and cognitive tests are a proactive way to identify the root cause of these impairments, whether Alzheimer’s or not.

Also on the show

On Tuesday Cafe we also spoke with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Florida State Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa).