Today, passersby along Interstate 40 will notice that Oklahoma City’s Skydance Bridge is distinctively teal in support of Alzheimer’s awareness, as part of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s (AFA) Light the Nation campaign.

SIDEBAR:

Facts and stats

• Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, or loss of intellectual function, among people aged 65 and older.

• 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease. Of them, two-thirds are women.

• The risk of dementia doubles every five years between ages 65-95.

• Estimates indicate 45 to 67 percent of all nursing home residents have dementia.

• The average annual cost of dementia care in the U.S. for people over 70 years old in 2010 was between $157 and $210 billion. The average per dementia case was between $41,000 and $56,000.

• Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

• Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States

develops the disease.

• More than 40 million people in the U.S. are over 65 years old (more than one in eight of the nation’s population). More than 10,00 Baby Boomers are turning 65 each day.

 

Information gathered from Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) at alzfdn.org.

Today, passersby along Interstate 40 will notice that Oklahoma City’s Skydance Bridge is distinctively teal in support of Alzheimer’s awareness, as part of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s (AFA) Light the Nation campaign.

The Skydance is in good company. New York’s Empire State Building; the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas; The Wrigley Building in Chicago; and Los Angeles International Airport are among many taking part in the event.

Globally, landmarks in Canada, China, United Kingdom and Ireland are participating, as well.

“We are honored to have the support of so many — near and far — in literally shedding light on this devastating disease that affects so many individuals,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s president and chief executive officer. “It is our hope that the number of participating sites will continue to grow for years to come and that with it, leaders in this country and worldwide will make finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease a global priority.”

Light the Nation is just one of many events AFA has planned for November, which is Alzheimer’s Awareness month.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.

These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex.

Two types of abnormal lesions clog the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease: Beta-amyloid plaques—sticky clumps of protein fragments and cellular material that form outside and around neurons; and neurofibrillary tangles—insoluble twisted fibers composed largely of the protein tau that build up inside nerve cells. Although these structures are hallmarks of the disease, scientists are unclear whether they cause it or a byproduct of it.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging, the AFA website states.

Why the name?

According to the AFA, the origin of the term Alzheimer’s disease dates back to 1906 when Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, presented a case history before a medical meeting of a 51-year-old woman who suffered from a rare brain disorder. A brain autopsy identified the plaques and tangles that today characterize Alzheimer’s disease.

How to know?

According to mayoclinic.org, there’s no specific test today that confirms Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors can nearly always determine dementia, and they can often identify whether that dementia is due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed with complete accuracy only after death, when microscopic examination of the brain reveals the characteristic plaques and tangles.

The Mayo Clinic states that doctors rely on several exams to help diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease.

• Physical and neurological exam: The doctor will perform a physical exam, and is likely to check overall neurological health by testing reflexes; muscle tone and strength; ability to get up from a chair and walk across the room; sense of sight and hearing; coordination; and balance

• Lab tests: Blood tests may help rule out other potential causes of memory loss and confusion, such as thyroid disorders or vitamin deficiencies.

• Mental status testing: A brief mental status test can be performed to assess memory and other thinking skills. Short forms of mental status testing can be done in about 10 minutes.

• Neuropsychological testing: A more extensive assessment of thinking and memory may be necessary. Longer forms of neuropsychological testing, which can take several hours to complete, may provide additional details about mental function compared with others’ of a similar age and education level.

• Brain imaging: Images of the brain are now used chiefly to pinpoint visible abnormalities related to conditions other than Alzheimer’s disease — such as strokes, trauma or tumors — that may cause cognitive change. New imaging applications — currently used primarily in major medical centers or in clinical trials — may enable doctors to detect specific brain changes caused by Alzheimer’s.

Brain-imaging technologies include: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Computerized tomography (CT) scans and Positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

 

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