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Challenges diagnosing early-onset Alzheimer’s development

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 8:26 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A new study from the Alzheimer’s Association finds both doctors and the public face challenges in understanding the difference between typical, normal aging and early Alzheimer’s development.

“Right before my 40th birthday, I was taking a shower, washing my hair, and couldn’t process washing my hair just like the brain steps involved in that,” said Kanada Yazbek.

That’s when Yazbek knew something wasn’t right.

She made an appointment with her doctor and at 48 years old, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

It’s something she is all too familiar with. Six people in her family have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and a 7th family member diagnosed with dementia.

“I don’t want people to feel bad for me because I have a good life. I have three kids, life is good,” said Yazbek.

While Yazbek knew the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, many people don’t.

A new study from the Alzheimer’s Association found that people and doctors have trouble distinguishing between signs of typical aging and mild cognitive impairment, also called MCI. 10 to 15% of people with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s.

“Being diagnosed early is really important to living a better quality of life for a longer time,” said Susan Parriott, chief executive officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter.

“Physicians always aren’t comfortable or aren’t always comfortable diagnosing MCI because they may not know as much about it as well,” Parriott added.

That’s why Yazbek and the Alzheimer’s Association say if you start to have trouble completing your normal tasks, make sure to talk to your doctor and ask a specialist.

“You just have to be your biggest advocate, so if you are concerned, make sure you are talking to a primary care doctor and you are talking to a neurologist,” said Yazbek.

In North Dakota, the number of residents aged 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s Disease is 15,000. By 2025, that number is expected to jump to 16,000.

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include memory loss that impacts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, or difficulty completing normal tasks.

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