Alzheimer’s Patients Have a Powerful (and Rich) New Ally

We don’t know the biggest cause of dementia for certain. Your dementia risk and the foods you eat could be related. Maybe it’s, indirectly, your parents’ fault. Thankfully, Alzheimer’s patients have a powerful and rich new ally who could change everything.

Alzheimer’s disease develops in stages over a span of years. There’s no official cure yet, but scientists may have found a way to figure one out in the future. Until then, nonprofit organizations are doing what they can to fund further research. Big donations from important people — like the one made to Dementia Discovery Fund in 2018. Could this man save the world? Check out page 10 for the reveal of who Alzheimer’s rich ally is.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

brain and label to indicate Alzheimer's disease

Sorry, but there’s still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease |

According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that, later in life, develops slowly over decades. It’s just one of many different types of dementia. Some people live 10 years or more following their diagnosis, but others live only three or four after the fact.

Next: Who is affected by dementia the most?

Who gets dementia?

Dementia primarily strikes people over the age of 65. |

Anyone can develop any form of dementia. It’s so complex that anything from genes to physical inactivity can cause it, though it’s usually a combination of factors. The largest percentage of adults living with dementia are over 65.

Next: Can you stop this from happening to you?

Dementia risk factors you can control

Exercise can be an important factor in combating dementia. | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Though there’s no guarantee your habits will influence your chances, some factors are, technically, under your control. Maintaining good heart health and seeking treatment for certain mental health conditions are just a few keys to prevention.

Next: While you can control these things, others, you can’t.

Dementia risk factors you can’t control

You could be in trouble if dementia runs in your family. | Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

You can control your eating habits and your exercise routine, but you can’t do anything about your family history, your genes, or your age. People with siblings or parents who had Alzheimer’s disease, in particular, have a greater chance of also developing it someday.

Next: This is the dementia risk factor you need to be most aware of.

Your age is your biggest risk of all

Bored senior man watching tv

Dementia usually comes on after age 65. | littlebee80/iStock/GettyImages

In some cases, early onset Alzheimer’s disease can negatively impact a person’s life before they turn 50. However, your risk of developing any form of dementia increases significantly the older you get. Adults 65 and older have a greater chance of experiencing dementia symptoms than any other age group.

Next: Can you guess how many Americans have Alzheimer’s?

5 million adults live with the disease

Senior Couple Walking In Park

Millions of Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 adults 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease. Millions of Americans total currently live with this one type of dementia alone, and many who have it aren’t aware — or are still in denial — that they have it.

Next: Many of these people will die with the disease.

Thousands die from Alzheimer’s disease complications every year

Senior woman in hospital

Alzheimer’s is officially a “public health problem.” |

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared Alzheimer’s disease a “public health problem.” Deaths from the disease increased 55% from 1999 to 2014, likely because the number of adults over 65 in the U.S. has increased significantly.

Next: Caring for people with dementia is costly. Finding a cure will cost even more.

Dementia is expensive

elderly woman with nurse

Alzheimer’s can sap people of their retirement savings. | PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images

The Alzheimer’s Association also reports that caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cost an estimated $249 billion annually. This includes both short- and long-term health care costs.

Next: Some organizations exist only to fund research efforts.

Research dollars make a huge difference

Scientist looking into a microscope

Alzheimer’s has no known cures. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK

Among the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is the only one without a cure. Knowing this, organizations like the Dementia Discovery Fund focus their efforts on developing new treatments to help those suffering from various forms of dementia.

Next: One of the richest men in the world wants to help find a cure.

Could Bill Gates help cure Alzheimer’s disease?

Bill Gates is investing a fortune into Alzheimer’s research. | JP Yim/Getty Images

Microsoft founder Bill Gates invested $100 million into Alzheimer’s research in 2018 — $50 million of which went directly to the Dementia Discovery Fund. It turns out he had a very personal reason for investing in this organization.

Next: Does Microsoft’s founder have a secret?

Does Bill Gates have Alzheimer’s disease?

Bill Gates

Gates’ father has Alzheimer’s. | Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images

Bill Gates does not have Alzheimer’s disease. However, he did reveal in early 2018 that his father had been given the devastating diagnosis. He made the decision to donate to dementia research in response to receiving the tragic news.

Next: Gates doesn’t have dementia — but many popular celebrities before him have.

Celebrities who lived with dementia before they died

ronald reagan at the end of his presidency

Reagan became a public face of Alzheimer’s. | Carlos Shiebeck/AFP/Getty Images

Many famous celebrities lived with dementia before it claimed their lives. Actor and comedian Robin Williams, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, and former president Ronald Reagan brought much-needed attention to the irreversible condition.

Next: What actually happens to your body when you develop dementia?

How does dementia affect your body and mind?

Young stressed woman

Fatigue can be an early symptom of dementia. |

People often experience physical signs and symptoms of dementia before their memories start fading. Not all early warning signs of dementia are psychological. Weakness and fatigue, balancing problems, and changes in sleep patterns can all signal a serious problem incoming.

Next: You might be doing something every day that’s putting you at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Habits that increase dementia risk

four different alcoholic drinks in glasses

Keep the cocktails to a minimum. | iStock/Getty Images

Don’t want Alzheimer’s disease, or any other form of dementia? Stop engaging in habits that increase dementia risk. Don’t smoke, drink too much alcohol, or sit on the couch all day every day. Remember those controllable risk factors we talked about? They’re yours to control. Get to it.

Next: You know what not to do — now here’s what you can do instead.

How to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Woman doing balasana yoga at gym, with focus on hands.

A life-long exercise habit can help keep dementia at bay. |

Whether you’re in your 40s or well past retirement age, there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself. You can reduce your dementia risk with habits as simple as exercising regularly, making sure you’re getting enough quality sleep, and laughing as often as possible.

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