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Alzheimer's set to rise as Finns extend careers

People developing early onset Alzheimer's disease are often misdiagnosed as suffering from exhaustion, depression or thyroid disorder.

Jari Mommo
Small business owner Jari Mommo was 56 years old when he learned he had Alzheimer's. Image: Timo Nykyri / Yle

More than 70,000 people in Finland are living with Alzheimer's. Most sufferers in Finland are aged over 65 but people as young as 40 may begin developing symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease.

”Initial symptoms may include difficulty visualising things, a loss of initiative, and changes in personality,” says Johanna Krüger, a neurologist at Oulu University Hospital.

Memory loss is relatively easy to spot among those still in worklife, especially when forgetfulness begins to affect performance. But no fool-proof test for early-stage Alzheimer's exists and symptoms can be misinterpreted as depression or professional burnout.

That said, a vitamin B12 deficiency or an underactive thyroid can also cause memory problems.

”Everyone forgets or loses things, but if a large part of your day is spent looking for misplaced stuff, it would be a good idea to get checked out,” Krüger says, adding that 20-30 percent of busy working people have periods of forgetfulness, especially if they aren’t sleeping enough.

Today’s accelerated work pace and information overload are demanding more from our brains, and frequent disruptions gnaw at short-term memory function. The Alzheimer Society of Finland estimates that some 7,000-10,000 people in worklife have dementia—a number expected to grow as more seniors spend their golden years on the job.

Friday marks World Alzheimer’s Day.

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