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Seniors learn about Alzheimer’s, dementia risks

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PINE LEVEL — Mary Ann Dybzinski, programs and outreach coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association’s eastern North Carolina chapter, shared information on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease during the Pine Level seniors group’s recent monthly meeting with more than 80 people in attendance.

Dybzynski explained the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, the impact, stages and risk factors of Alzheimer’s and current research and treatments available for some symptoms along with Alzheimer’s Association resources.

“Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging,” said Dybzynski. “It is a progressive brain disease and people under the age of 65 can get Alzheimer’s.”

The condition takes its name from Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who in 1906 noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness with symptoms that included memory loss, language problems and unpredictable behavior.

Included among other facts and statistics Dybzynski provided were that an estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2019, with that number including an estimated 5.6 million people age 65 and older and about 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

Dybzynski said one in 10 people 65 and older has Alzheimer’s and almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.

Additionally, older African Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites and Hispanics are about one and a half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.

She said Alzheimer’s is the nation’s sixth leading cause of death and the United States has some 16.2 million unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers.

“As the number of older Americans grows rapidly, so too will the number of new and existing cases of Alzheimer’s,” said Dybzynski.

Dybzynski defined dementia as a general term for a collection of symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Dybzinski said by the year 2050, the number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s or dementia may grow to a projected 13.8 million barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or cure Alzheimer’s disease.

Dybzynski shared the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900, which offers care and support to those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association hosts a caregiver support group meeting on the fourth Thursday of each month in room 1404-A of the Johnston County Medical Mall.