Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia — a condition that causes cognitive function to decline and interfere with daily life. Despite popular belief, losing memories due to Alzheimer’s is NOT a normal part of aging, though aging can increase the risk of the disease.

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In South Dakota, Alzheimer’s disease was the fifth most common cause of death from 2017 to 2021, according to the Office of Health Statistics with the South Dakota Department of Health.

Signs & Symptoms

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 10 early signs of Alzheimer’s:

1. Loss of memory that disrupts daily life

2. Difficulty planning or problem solving

3. Difficulty completing normal tasks

4. Feeling confused by time or place

5. Difficulty understanding images and judging distance

6. Recent difficulty with writing or speaking

7. Losing things without the ability to retrace steps

8. Poor judgement and decision making

9. Withdrawing from social activities or work

10. Drastic mood swings and changes in personality

All of these symptoms, when mild, can be a part of normal aging. The Alzheimer’s Association illustrates examples of what could be a normal behavior vs. when a symptom may be Alzheimer’s.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s can also affect Learn more about the 10 Warning Signs.

While symptoms may start off mild, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning that as time goes on, symptoms will worsen.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you have concerns about memory loss with yourself or others, set up an appointment with your doctor or encourage others to schedule an appointment with their own health care provider.

With tests, exams and other methods, your health care team may be able to determine the cause of your symptoms and how to proceed. Alzheimer’s or other dementia may be the cause, but other things can cause similar symptoms.

After diagnosis, the average person with Alzheimer’s will live another 4 to 8 years. However, some can live as long as 20 more years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Though there currently is no cure for Alzheimer’s or other dementia, treatment can slow the progression, allow opportunities to enroll in clinical trials, prepare for financial aspects of your care, and anticipate what you may need as your disease progresses.

Treatment can include medications, therapy, behavioral changes and other lifestyle tools.

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