Beloved wildlife educator Jack Hanna, a former director of the Columbus Zoo and frequent talk show fixture, has been diagnosed with dementia, his family confirmed in a statement released on Wednesday, April 7.
"Doctors have diagnosed our dad, Jack Hanna, with dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer's disease," Hanna's daughters Kathaleen, Suzanne, and Julie Hanna confirmed. "His condition has progressed much faster in the past few months than any of us could have anticipated. Sadly, Dad is no longer able to participate in public life as he used to, where people all over the world watched, learned and laughed alongside him."
While Hanna may have an uphill battle ahead of him, his family said, "We can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through. And yes — he still wears his khakis at home."
The 74-year-old wildlife expert joins the approximately 6.2 million Americans over age 65 who are currently battling Alzheimer's, the most common cause of dementia, the Alzheimer's Association reports. While, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Alzheimer's&Dementia, the time between the average dementia diagnosis, institutionalization, and death are just 3.9 and 5 years, respectively, experts say that early diagnosis is the best way to improve patient prognoses and quality of life. Read on to discover the surprising signs of Alzheimer's disease you can't afford to miss, and for early symptoms of the condition, check out these 40 Early Signs of Alzheimer's Everyone Over 40 Should Know.
While everyone forgets to send a check or schedule a payment once in a while, if financial forgetfulness becomes a persistent problem for you, you might want to check in with your doctor. According to a 2020 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, a pattern of missed payments may be a sign of dementia, even if you haven't been diagnosed yet. In fact, among the 81,000 adults followed over a 20-year study period, individuals with Alzheimer's frequently skipped payments up to six years prior to being diagnosed with the condition. And for the latest health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Diminished sense of smell
If you notice your ability to smell dwindling, you should let your doctor know. According to the National Institute on Aging, losing your sense of smell can be a symptom of Alzheimer's. And for dementia risk factors to be aware of, If You Have This Blood Type, Your Dementia Risk Is High, Study Says.
Forgetting important dates and events
It's one thing to forget your grocery list at home, but if you find yourself frequently forgetting important dates like your children's birthdays or the appointment you scheduled, that could be a cause for concern, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Trouble solving basic problems
People with Alzheimer's struggle to problem-solve simple issues that would be easy for another person to resolve, according to the Columbia University Department of Neurology.
Forgetting the names of everyday objects
If you find yourself stumped on what you call a toothbrush or cup, you should let someone know. According to the Mayo Clinic, this forgetfulness could be related to Alzheimer's. And for another early sign, This One Thing Can Catch Alzheimer's 20 Years Before Your Symptoms Start.
Trouble with the passage of time
People who don't have Alzheimer's have no problem discerning between a few minutes and a few hours, but those with the illness can struggle with the passage of time. "Five minutes can seem like five hours for someone with [Alzheimer's disease]," Lisa P. Gwyther, MSW, an associate professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, told CBS News. "So a husband may think his wife has been gone for hours or even weeks, even if it's just been a few minutes, or he might tell his grandchild that he hasn't seen him in five years, even though he just saw him yesterday."
The sudden onset of aggression is common among people with Alzheimer's, according to the National Institute on Aging. And to learn how to reduce your risk, Doing This One Thing Could Drop Your Alzheimer's Risk by 30 Percent.
Sleep problems can be a result of many different things—including Alzheimer's. "There's an association between Alzheimer's and sleep disturbances," Jose Colon, MD, a sleep medicine doctor, told Lee Health. "You can't make an early diagnosis of Alzheimer's based on sleep patterns, but when someone has disruptive sleep patterns, you want to keep an eye on that." And for more on sleep and Alzheimer's, How Well You Sleep Predicts Your Alzheimer's Risk, Study Says.