Dawn Mangine

    Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is projected to affect nearly 14 million people by the year 2060. But Alzheimer's isn't a normal part of aging, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a curriculum intended to increase awareness of Alzheimer's and other types of dementia, as well as the role of public health.

    Although scientists don't yet know the cause of Alzheimer's, they are learning more every day. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that begins with mild memory loss, and eventually involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. It will gradually impact a person's ability to carry out the activities of daily living.

    What We Do Know About Alzheimer's

    • The best known risk factor for Alzheimer's is age, with most people starting to show signs around age 60.
    • If a person has a family history of Alzheimer's, their risk is thought to be higher. Researchers think genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimer's.
    • Changes in the brain can start long before symptoms appear.
    • Researchers are discovering more evidence that the same things that affect diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke are risk factors for Alzheimer's.
    • The evidence is also growing that staying physically, mentally, and socially active can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

    Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's, medical management can improve quality of life for people with the disease and their caregivers. Treatment of Alzheimer's addresses slowing or delaying the onset of the disease; helping people maintain mental function; and managing behavioral symptoms.

    Alzheimer's Disease Public Health Curriculum

    The CDC has developed an introductory curriculum intended to increase awareness of the condition and its impact on public health. The curriculum consists of an overview, several modules, and references and supporting material.

    • The course overview provides a summary of each module.
    • Module 1 explains how Alzheimer's is a public health crisis and a growing burden on the U.S. healthcare system.
    • Module 2 describes symptoms, stages, risk factors, diagnosis, and management of Alzheimer's.
    • Module 3 discusses three tools of public health that play a role in mitigating the Alzheimer's epidemic.
    • Module 4 addresses the response to Alzheimer's disease at the state and community level.

    This curriculum is intended for use by undergraduate faculty in schools and programs of public health and other related disciplines. It supports The Healthy Brain Initiative: The Public Health Road Map for State and National Partnerships. Learn more here.

    Pocket Nurse provides an "Understanding Alzheimer's" chart, perfect for the classroom.