Knowing the risk factors of Alzheimer's as doctors search for a cure

Alzheimer's Association's 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer's to be held Saturday

MIAMI – At 28 years old, many would not expect Jahna Jones to be concerned about Alzheimer's disease. But she is and with good reason.   

"There are about 10 confirmed cases of Alzheimer's disease and/or a form of dementia within my family," Jones said. 

Jones' paternal grandmother is one of those family members with the progressive brain disease.

On a good day, you can find her grandmother singing along to a familiar song. But for people living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers, good days are unfortunately very few and far between. 

"Eventually what happens is that a person's ability to regulate basic functions, walking, caring for their hygiene -- even swallowing begins to break down," said Dr. Marc Agronin, geriatric psychiatrist at Miami Jewish Health. 

Agronin said it's important for people to know the risk factors for Alzheimer's.

"The No. 1 risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is increased age. A close second would be female gender, after menopause. This is why, in part, we see more women with the disease," Agronin said.

It's also important to spot the symptoms of Alzheimer's, which include frequent short-term memory lapses, loss of language function, getting lost in familiar places and not recognizing familiar faces.

And, while at least 90 percent of people develop symptoms of Alzheimer's after age 65,  Agronin says cases of early onset Alzheimer's have increased.  
"People who have early onset Alzheimer's disease, before the age of 65, there tend to be much stronger genetic components, and often people know this because it runs in their family. They've seen aunts and uncles and other people in the family with it," said Agronin.

Even though this is all cause for concern for Jones, she's chosen to make the most of the present, primarily as an advocate for funding for Alzheimer's research on behalf of the Alzheimer's Association.  

Jones will take part in the Alzheimer's Association's 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer's on Saturday.  

She's hopeful for a cure in her lifetime.  

"One day Alzheimer's will be just that -- a memory," Jones said. 

The 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer's takes place at Museum Park, 1075 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

Click here for more information about the event.


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