“You’re too good looking to have Alzheimer’s.” Imagine hearing this from your doctor. The disbelief that someone could actually look vibrant, strong and healthy yet have Alzheimer’s makes diagnosis more difficult.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s is an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65. Of all the people who have Alzheimer’sdisease, about 5 percent develop symptoms before age 65. If 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, at least 200,000 people have the early-onset form of the disease.
Imagine being in the prime of your life, close to the top of your career when suddenly you’re having issues at work. Your boss is upset that you didn’t follow through on the action items that were assigned to you. You’re certain that this assignment was never discussed.
Now imagine being tested for depression, hormone imbalances all kinds of issues and not getting the answers you need. What is wrong? Is it you, the world, are you going crazy? That’s the world that some people with early-onset Alzheimer’s experience.
It’s commonly assumed that it’s the elderly who end up with Alzheimer’s. While that is normally the case, there are many people living with the disease who may still have children at home. Due to the rarity of early-onset, we are less aware of this version of the disease.
The movie “Still Alice” (released in 2014) portrays Alice Howland, a 50-year-old professor of linguistics. Alice discovers that she has a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease. She has to think about what her future will be like with diminished cognitive capacities, and must face difficult conversations with her children, who might have inherited the disease.
In the movie, Alice has Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). This a rare form of Alzheimer’s that is entirely passed down through genetics. FAD accounts for 2-3% of all cases of Alzheimer’s and usually has a much earlier onset than other types of Alzheimer’s, with symptoms developing in people in their 30s or 40s
Alzheimer’s disease isn’t fully understood. Scientists believe that for most people, the disease has genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. There may be a hereditary component to Alzheimer’s. People whose parents or siblings have the disease are at a slightly higher risk of developing the condition.
Regular listeners know, my Mom and Great grandmother had dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s possible that my maternal grandmother had Alzheimer’s as well. That puts me in a higher risk category. I cannot change my genetics so I focus on making the best lifestyle choices I can.
Doing What We Can to Avoid Inherited Alzheimer’s
Lifestyle choices, all the things we know we should do but somehow manage to avoid doing. I exercise regularly, eat as cleanly as possible and I make getting the best sleep I can. Other lifestyle improvements include stress management.
Some examples of stress-management techniques include:
- Guided Imagery and Visualization
- Deep Breathing
Trust me — it is not necessary to lock yourself into any of one of these stress relaxation techniques. Rather, it’s best to feel free to explore any or all of them to see which technique works best for you. Simply start with any of these techniques for a few minutes a day and you’ll quickly begin to experience better brain function. Then, find the techniques you tend to enjoy the very most and you’ll begin experiencing a whole new and improved — and less stressed — you!
With this in mind, my main sources of stress management are exercise, playing with my dogs and focusing on the beauty around me. As a result of producing this podcast, I am able to talk to many people who also help me with my caregiving journey.
Fading Memories is a place where you can get stress relief. Each guest offers a lot of inspiration and practical ideas. Best of all, there are a lot of laughs despite the serious topic. Browse through our growing library of episodes to find the topic you need to hear next.
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