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National Expert Describes Risks, Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

To raise awareness of the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, Windsor Park, a Covenant Retirement Community in Carol Stream, hosted a program featuring Len Lecci, Ph.D., one of the nation’s experts on dementia care.

“According to the Alzheimer’s Association, mortality rates for Alzheimer’s have risen 68 percent since 2000 while death rates for other major diseases — including heart disease, breast cancer and stroke — have all declined,” notes Karen Larson, executive director at Windsor Park. “Increasing awareness is the first step in changing the future of Alzheimer’s. As a community dedicated to the health of senior adults in Chicagoland, we think it’s important to help educate our community about this disease.”

During the event, Dr. Lecci discussed the most common memory diseases and their associated cognitive and behavioral symptoms, but focused his discussion on Alzheimer’s disease. He explained that memory loss, as well as loss of processing speed or verbal function, are typical warning signs of this type of memory disease. Diagnosis of memory diseases is difficult because there are very few physical symptoms. Even when Alzheimer’s is suspected, it is often too late to take preventive measure because the disease’s progress precedes diagnosis by at least a decade.

“Although the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is difficult, multiple studies have pinpointed early detection signs,” says Dr. Lecci. “These signs can include mild cognitive impairment or asymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease in which the patient will develop memory complaints and localized impairment. By being aware of these signs, you may be able to help yourself or a loved one.”

To maintain a higher quality of life for a longer time, Dr. Lecci recommends testing. By being proactive you may catch the disease at a stage when medication can slow its progression. Without formal testing, memory loss will typically go undetected until the disease becomes severe. “Taking steps now can add years of life later,” says Dr. Lecci.

Dr. Lecci recommended testing for those older than 55 who are at the highest risk of developing dementia, especially to those who:

•   Have a family history of dementia;

•   Have type II diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol;

•   Have or suspect central nervous system dysfunction (stroke, tumor, etc.);

•   Are using medicine that may cause a cognitive or behavioral change. 

To underscore the importance of early detection, the dementia expert noted that if testing could detect dementia just one month earlier, it could save the United States an estimated $1 billion annually.

On Thursday, Nov. 21, 11 a.m., Windsor Park will present “Safe Surfing” with author Abby Stokes, an instructor at Cooper Union and New York University’s School of Lifelong Learning. To RSVP for the event or receive addition information on Windsor Park, call (877) 816-8397 or visit www.RetireAtWindsorPark.com.

Windsor Park is a faith-based, nationally accredited, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community. It is administered by Covenant Retirement Communities Inc., which is a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church. For more information on Windsor Park, visit www.WindsorParkIllinois.org.

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