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Alzheimer's: On the Rise and How to Spot It

By Christina2 - March 24, 2014

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Greenville Online has recently reported that the rates of Alzheimer's among adults is on the rise, with 11 percent of South Carolinians having it. The rate of Alzheimer's in the state is also on the rise, leading to the question: Is Alzheimer's becoming more common, or are we just getting better at spotting it?

The Stats

In the Greenville Online article, Liv Osby reports that 79,000 seniors in South Carolina have Alzheimer's, a jump of 17.9 percent since 2000. Using data from the Alzheimer's Association, that number is expected to almost double in nine year's time to 125,000. It's also a fairly deadly disease and getting deadlier: in South Carolina, Alzheimer's ranks as the having the 10th highest death rate with a mortality rate that's jumped 80 percent in the last 14 years.

Alzheimer's also shows a strong gender preference towards women, targeting them two out of three times it strikes. And when compared to a common "female" disease like breast cancer, Alzheimer's "wins" hands down, hitting women in their 60s twice as often as breast cancer. Men, on the other hand, have only a one in 11 chance of developing Alzheimer's, compared to one in six for women.

The Recognition

Admitting to Alzheimer's can be difficult, because it means something irreversibly life-changing is going on. But not putting the right name on it can be just as dangerous, as the afflicted senior may not have access to treatments and medications that could alleviate the Alzheimer's just a little bit. The Alzheimer's Association lists the following 10 things to look for:


  • 1. Not being able to remember something that was just learned, and to the point that it affects everyday life
  • 2. Having difficulty with planning or problem solving, such as making sense of numbers and dates
  • 3. Reduced ability to perform normal, simple tasks they previously had no problems with before
  • 4. Being unsure of the date, time or place
  • 5. Breakdown of visuospatial abilities, like not recognizing themselves in a mirror
  • 6. Difficulty with words, substituting phrases in place of the word itself
  • 7. Forgetting where they put something, or storing it in an incorrect location
  • 8. Altered, decreased or poor judgement
  • 9. Change in personality as they withdraw from social interactions
  • 10. Personality or mood changes in general

    More Common, Or More Easily Understood?

    It's difficult to answer this question for a number of reasons: Alzheimer's can't be definitely diagnosed until the autopsy, not every case of Alzheimer's is diagnosed (or diagnosed correctly), seniors or families may be in denial about it, and the medical profession is constantly getting more sophisticated.

    But the probable and most likely answer is that everyone is getting better at recognizing it and labelling it as such. Imagine that 50 years ago, the symptoms of Alzheimer's tended to get clumped in with dementia in general, and now we know that there are many different kinds of dementia. It's likely that seniors tended to get Alzheimer's in relatively the same numbers then as they do now, only in 2014 it becomes a little easier to diagnose it.

    However, that also simplifies the matter of the brain, an organ that is so complex and powerful, we still don't entirely understand how it works. It's also more than possible that certain things can cause Alzheimer's and we don't know it yet, and there is an increase in the number of cases.

    Whether Alzheimer's truly is becoming more common or doctors and scientists are just getting better at recognizing it still remains to be seen.