Researchers in Iowa have found that significant changes in the brains of Alzheimer's patients can begin at least 20 years before a formal diagnosis, and they are calling for increased education about the early warning signs of dementia during Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month.

Iowans with Alzheimer’s

In the U.S., there are currently at least 7 million people aged 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s, including 62,000 residents of Iowa.

Abby Miesner, Development Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association of Iowa, highlighted that despite ongoing research efforts, the incidence of Alzheimer’s is increasing at a younger age, which she finds discouraging. "The lifetime risk for Alzheimer’s at age 45 is one in five for women and one in ten for men," Miesner said.

It's consistent across racial lines

She emphasized that these risks are consistent across different racial and ethnic groups, including Black and Latino communities. As medical professionals become more aware that signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s can appear earlier than previously thought, they are beginning to focus on these early indicators.


Miesner clarified that while occasional memory lapses, like misplacing keys or forgetting why you entered a room, are not necessarily a cause for concern, frequent memory issues affecting daily life could be. Early detection of Alzheimer’s offers doctors a better opportunity to intervene and manage the disease.

Can you avoid dementia?

"Up to 40% of dementia cases could be related to modifiable risk factors," Miesner noted. "Factors like high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, and poor sleep can all be managed through healthy lifestyle choices."

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A 2022 Alzheimer’s Association report revealed that 60% of people delay seeing a doctor about early symptoms of dementia, waiting until symptoms worsen or until encouraged by family and friends.

To address this issue, the Alzheimer’s Association is hosting educational events throughout Iowa all month to raise awareness and provide information on early detection and prevention.

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