KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, which aims to heighten awareness of Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease and the most common cause of dementia. It’s a day for raising awareness and empathy for those living with Alzheimer’s, others who have succumbed to the disease and education for all.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 1 in 9 people, or an estimated 6.2 million Americans, ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021. Officials with the Alzheimer’s Association said Tuesday that while many choose to treat the disease as taboo and don’t discuss it with the younger generation, research shows that people who view aging more positively, tend to be healthier in their own later years, including brain health.

While dementia affects older adults, allowing much younger humans to learn about cognitive impairment is essential. Alzheimer’s Association officials say educating young children on memory loss and aging is critical for building an empathetic, caring community.

Recent studies on cognitive impairment, especially Alzheimer’s, indicate the medical science research field is still looking for improved methods on how to detect, better treat and hopefully end Alzheimer’s disease. A 2020 study out of Tokyo indicates a “switch” involving the body’s amino acids that may trigger toxic proteins that accumulate and block the normal firing of brain cells – leading to neurodegenerative issues. Another study out of Perth, Australia also touches on fat-carrying particles taking toxic proteins into the brain from the blood.

The Alzheimer’s Association shared 10 early warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

The Alzheimer’s Association says if you notice any of the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor — with early detection, you can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer, as well as increase your chances of participating in clinical drug trials that help advance research.