Alzheimer's disease takes a serious toll on the patients who live with it, and the families who care for them.
In both cases, it disproportionately affects women.
As part of Alzheimer Awareness Month in January, Canada's Alzheimer Society has kicked off "The 72%," a campaign emphasizing the fact that women make up 72 per cent of Canadians who have the disease, and 70 per cent of family caregivers, said a Tuesday news release.
And the reason, the society said, is that women live longer than men do and "age is a significant risk factor" for the disease.
"With this campaign, we're making Alzheimer's disease a women's issue," society CEO Mimi Lowi-Young said in a statement. "Women lead busy, hectic lives, often paying the price with their own health and well-being. We're asking them to invest time in understanding the warning signs."
CTV News spoke to Brampton resident Caron Leid, who became part of the 70 per cent of caregivers when her mother, Marlene, joined the 72 per cent of patients in 2000.
Her mother's disease has progressed so much that she can no longer speak or do anything on her own, the network said. She requires constant care from her daughter, who is trying to raise a son at the same time.
"It is very difficult and I don’t think my family per se understands that it is a huge sacrifice, because I basically gave up 14 years of my life," she told the network.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a degenerative condition that eliminates a patient's brain cells, says a description on the society's website. There are medications that can treat the disease, but there's no cure.
Warning signs of Alzheimer's disease can include memory loss, particularly for things a person might normally remember later, such as friends' names or contact information.
Patients also have difficulty completing tasks such as making food and speaking. They even forget where they live sometimes.
The disease has a number of causes, such as aging. It is much more rare for teenagers and people in their 20s to develop the condition.
But factors that contribute to Alzheimer's disease increase as one grows older. As people age, they experience issues relating to blood pressure, weight and stress, and these are also considered "risk factors" for Alzheimer's. Genes also play a role in the disease, and so can one's diet, smoking and drinking habits.
Statistics from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research show that 747,000 people were living with Alzheimer's in 2011, a number that is expected to increase to 1,400,000 by 2013.
The disease is estimated to affect five per cent of Canadians who are 65 and older, and 25 per cent of people aged 85 and up.
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