“Forgetting where you parked is not reason for concern. ‘The problem is when you start forgetting that you drove your car to work that day.’”
by Elizabeth Gehrman
“It’s one of our biggest fears — being gripped by a disease that slowly steals the very essence of who we are. And early-onset Alzheimer’s, defined as striking before age 65, seems even more cruel, coming as it does at what is often the height of career success, perhaps as grown children are embarking on their own exciting paths. Stories like Tom Keane’s remembrance of his late wife Laurie Farrell, who was diagnosed with the disease at just 56, resonate on a visceral level.
“It’s important to remember, however, that Alzheimer’s usually affects much older people. ‘At 56, Alzheimer’s is extremely uncommon,’ says Harvard neurology professor Reisa Sperling, director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. While about 1 in 9 Americans will get Alzheimer’s disease, age is the greatest risk factor: 81 percent of patients are 75 or older, while only 3 percent — around 200,000 people in the US — are under 65. Still, it’s good to know what to watch out for, especially since, as Sperling says, Alzheimer’s ‘may go unrecognized in younger people or be misdiagnosed.’”