Top 5 Tragic Alzheimer's Facts

VOICE OVER: Chris Masson
Written by Michael Wynands

Alzheimer's disease is a leading cause of death. Those who have had an elderly loved one succumb to the disease know that it's at least as heartbreaking as "The Notebook." We've scoured health news, and the latest advancements in medicine to bring you the five most important, surprising and downright tragic facts about Alzheimer's Disease.

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Written by Michael Wynands

Top 5 Tragic Alzheimer’s Facts

This progressive brain condition currently affects 1 in 9 people over the age of 65, and those numbers are only getting higher. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In today’s instalment, we’re counting down the top 5 facts about Alzheimer’s disease that everyone should know to better understand this growing epidemic.

#5: It's Not a Natural Part of Aging

Given that Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects the aging and elderly, it’s all too easy to dismiss it as an unavoidable effect of getting older. When people get old, they forget things, right? One’s memory might worsen over time, but with Alzheimer’s the progressive degeneration of the brain is a direct result of plaque and protein build-up, which kills brains cells, leading to eventual shrinking and atrophy in the brain. According the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, naturally occurring memory loss associated with aging might involve forgetting names of an acquaintance, struggling to find a word or failing to remember events from years passed. But with Alzheimer’s, major recent memories can disappear, family members may not be recognized, and as it worsens, language skills can be lost entirely.

#4: Alzheimer’s Has a Link with Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a developmental disorder resulting from a genetic abnormality - specifically, a second 21st chromosome. This particular chromosome carries the APP gene, a gene that produces “amyloid precursor protein.” This protein clusters in the brain, forming plaque. Given that individuals with Down syndrome have twice the normal genetic material contributing to this build-up, nearly every individual with Down syndrome begins to exhibit Alzheimer’s-type symptoms by the age of 40. The overlap between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s has helped scientists to develop the ACI-24 vaccine. If successful, this drug could significantly improve both the lifespan and quality of life for humanity at large, but particularly individuals with Down syndrome or Alzheimer’s.

#3: It’s the Leading Killer Disease Without a Cure

Reduced quality of life is often the biggest concern when discussing Alzheimer’s. But what many people don’t realize is that Alzheimer’s does more than affect the memory - it is a fatal disease. In fact, it is the 6th leading cause of death in America. Advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease results in a weakened immune system, increased risk of infection and brain clots, respiratory failure, inability to swallow, movement limitations and more. The disease isn’t directly fatal, but its effects on the body nonetheless result in death. While treatments currently exist to slow its progression, among the top leading deadly diseases in the U.S., it is the only disease without a cure or treatment that could result in improvement or recovery.

#2: It Can Begin More Than a Decade Before Any Symptoms Show

In order to prolong the lifespan of an individual and maintain the highest quality of life, it’s crucial to catch the disease as early as possible. It is highly encouraged by medical professionals to be mindful of your own mental faculties and those of your loved ones. One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information. But even when caught as early as possible... Alzheimer’s has already had plenty of time to take hold of the brain.Alzheimer’s can only be completely confirmed by examining the brain after death but medical research to date has shown the abnormal buildup of protein and plaque can seemingly begin more than 10 years before any symptoms make themselves known.

#1: Education Can Lower the Risk

Although a cure has yet to been found, and definite preventative measures are equally unavailable, studies have shown that education can lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. That’s not to say that the highly educated necessarily have a lower chance of developing it, but rather that continued education and exercising of the mental faculties could improve your odds of avoiding the disease. There also seems to be a decrease in the incidence of Alzheimer’s among those who not only stay mentally stimulated, but socially active. Essentially, a healthy brain is an active one. A correlation between heart disease and Alzheimer’s has also been established, so staying physically active, as well as monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol are vitally important for its prevention.

How many of you know someone who has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease? For more memorable top 10s and untreatable Top 5s, be sure to subscribe to