Your Youth Won’t Protect You from Alzheimer’s Disease

By Sungwon Cho


Graphic by Helena Kim

When we think of Alzheimer’s disease, it is easier to imagine it linked to the elderly who have difficulty recognizing their children and grandchildren, not younger individuals. But youth isn’t a guarantee of complete safety from getting Alzheimer’s. In fact, we’re probably holding unconfirmed beliefs about the disease as a result of the media, which often describes Alzheimer’s as a disease afflicting only the elderly. However, this portrayal overlooks the disease’s early onset form.


As the name implies, early onset Alzheimer’s disease is a type of Alzheimer’s that affects people usually in their 30s to 50s. While this form occupies a very small percentage of all Alzheimer’s cases, the causes of this rare form of the disease are so far unknown, leaving risk factors unclear as well.


Compounding upon the ambiguity of typical Alzheimer’s disease cases that affect the elderly, the rare instances of early onset Alzheimer’s confuse researchers and scientists even more. With a limited amount of available data, it seems as if most young people experience early onset Alzheimer’s “randomly,” without an indicated cause. Some researchers, however, believe that genetics plays a role in causing the disease in younger individuals.


Most symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s are comparable to typical Alzheimer’s:

  1. Inability to recall others’ names

  2. Difficulty speaking or swallowing

  3. Inability to find misplaced items by memory

  4. Changes in personality and mood

  5. Trouble doing simple tasks

These symptoms could be red flags for those with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease.


If you are worried about the possibility of having early onset Alzheimer’s and show some of the symptoms listed above, you may want to see a doctor. Though no cure has been developed yet, postponing necessary hospital visits and treatments will only worsen one’s condition faster. There are many medications and therapies that can facilitate a patient’s management of Alzheimer’s symptoms and support their mental health.


Though early onset Alzheimer’s is a devastating condition, there are resources to turn to and ways to plan ahead. First, there is a supportive community that helps those with the same condition. In addition, this form of Alzheimer’s, unlike typical cases, does not progress at a fast pace. It would thus allow for a patient to adjust their lifestyle to prevent the worsening of their condition as much as possible. Staying connected with friends and family, appropriately communicating with one’s employer, and reaching out to a support group could all be beneficial.


It is also advised to practice a balance of healthy behaviors. For example, patients should avoid drinking and smoking, manage stress effectively, and maintain a healthy diet.


Despite the current lack of a cure, researchers are learning more about early onset Alzheimer’s every day. In the meantime, it is important for patients to take care of themselves and lead healthy lives as much as possible.



References

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/causes/#:~:text=Alzheimer's%20disease%20is%20thought%20to,form%20plaques%20around%20brain%20cells

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/younger-onset-dementia

https://www.healthline.com/health/alzheimers-disease/early-onset-alzheimers


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