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The Global Alzheimer's Crisis: Are You Ready to Take Action?

By Nancy Wurtzel

I’ve been surrounded by Alzheimer’s disease my whole life. Decades ago, both of my grandmothers had the disease. When I was in my early 40s, the illness claimed my father. Then, in 2011, I uprooted my life, moving across country and returning to the small farm town where I grew up to help care for my mother. Mummy, as we called her, lost her battle late last year after living with Alzheimer’s disease for the better part of a decade.

Now I wonder if I’ll also succumb to Alzheimer’s. It is my biggest fear.

I’m afraid because Alzheimer’s is the only top 10 cause of death without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression.

How do I cope with the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s? By taking action every single day. You can take action, too. In fact, right now one of Alzheimer’s biggest events is taking place.
September 2014 is the third-annual World Alzheimer’s Month™, an intensive global campaign designed to raise awareness and advocacy of the disease while also challenging the stigma surrounding it. From Amsterdam to Shanghai and Los Angeles to Sydney, people and organizations are coming together to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s.

This year’s theme — “Dementia: Can We Reduce the Risk?” — emphasizes the importance of maintaining a brain-healthy lifestyle.

Activities throughout the month focus on education, memory walks, free memory screening and social events for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. A new effort promotes the need for more dementia-friendly communities throughout the world.

Additionally, during World Alzheimer’s Month, the London-based Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) releases its annual report detailing the wide-ranging effects the disease has on the global economy and health care systems.

The numbers are sobering. An estimated 44 million people worldwide are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. By 2050, this number could skyrocket to an astounding 135 million.

Alzheimer’s also generates massive economic consequences. On a worldwide scale, the cost of providing care for the disease now exceeds 1% of the global gross national product. To give this figure some context, if Alzheimer’s care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy. And, if it were a company, it would be the world’s largest, exceeding the annual revenue of corporate giants like Exxon Mobil and Wal-Mart.

It’s easy to feel defeated, but don’t let that happen. Instead, become informed and engaged in the Alzheimer’s cause.

September is a great time to do just that. I’m raising money by walking in an annual memory walk in honor of my family members who died from this disease. You can also take part in this activity or many others. Contact your local Alzheimer’s group and start now, during World Alzheimer’s Month.

Nancy Wurtzel is a frequent blogger for ThirdAge. Visit her website at www.datingdementia.com.

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