September marks Alzheimer's awareness month, know the warning signs

- September is world Alzheimer's Awareness month.

And while many people associate Alzheimer's disease with memory loss in the elderly, there is another form of the disease known as early or young-onset, which can impact folks as early as their 30s or 40s.

It's important to know the warning signs.

So what does normal aging look like? And what are the warning symptoms of Alzheimer's?

Doctor James Leverenz of Cleveland Clinic says there's a big difference.

"Losing the ability to put new information in and hold on to it, is not a normal process. We all forget our keys occasionally, but as this happens more and more and we forget conversations, we repeat questions, we repeat ourselves, that's a lot more concerning," he said.

Early onset Alzheimer's, which is diagnosed before age 65, is rare. Only about 5 percent of the 5 million who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the U.S. will be diagnosed with early onset.

Leverenz says that while Alzheimer's symptoms typically begin with memory, some people will display other symptoms first, such as loss of language function or behavioral changes.

People who were once outgoing might become withdrawn, losing interest in activities or joining in conversations.

Leverenz says many times family members confuse these symptoms for depression.

He says that it's important for families to get involved and get their loved ones evaluated if they suspect that something isn't right, because even if they do not have Alzheimer's, there may be another underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

"There are lots of reasons why people struggle with their memory in their 40s and 50s and early 60s. Most of the time it's not Alzheimer's disease, but it's important to find out what those things are, treat them appropriately, also allay some fears," Leverenz said.
A great way to get involved in the fight the disease is the Alzheimer's Association's annual Walk to End Alzheimer's.

The 2-mile walk starts at 11 a.m. at Comerica Park on Saturday, October 1.

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