Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month
As November begins, it also signals the start of Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disorder that is still a mystery to medical experts as they are still trying to find ways of slowing down the process of how brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia develop as over 6.2 million Americans suffer from the illness.
The disease is progressive as it starts with mild memory loss and possibly leads to the loss of carry-on conversations. Alzheimer’s Disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia begin to develop in a person’s brain once the degradation of gray matter reaches a critical point. Degradation is the process of gray matter in the brain starting to break down, whether that’s from age, deterioration of health, eating habits, genetics, or physical trauma. Gray matter is not something that could be regained or repaired, only maintained as a person is born with their max amount. Any complications that happen to a baby’s health from the moment it’s born to the moment its brain is fully developed, will only hinder the amount or speed up the degradation process.
Over time, as the medical field began to increase its knowledge about the disease, it was discovered that African-Americans suffer from the disease at a higher rate than any other ethnic group in America, as they make up 13% of the population but take up 33% of the cost of Alzheimer care. Despite these already high numbers, experts theorize that the numbers could be doubled, as many African-Americans don’t get regularly tested and appear for medical attention when it’s too late.
Several factors can potentially explain the greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease in African-Americans. Health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes are known to raise the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, and these health conditions are more prevalent in the African-American community. Limited educational opportunities, exposure to poverty and pollution, early life adversity, and discrimination are all believed to diminish the brain’s ability to withstand the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.