Jack Hanna’s Diagnosis: Why Families Miss Early Dementia Signs | Premier Health (2023)

Premier Health Now Apr 15, 2021

Jack Hanna’s Diagnosis: Why Families Miss Early Dementia Signs | Premier Health (1)

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The recent news that popular wildlife conservationist and educator Jack Hanna likely has Alzheimer’s diseasehas left many of his fans stunned and saddened.

Although the world-renowned 74-year-old retired as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium spokesperson in December 2020, his diagnosis of “dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease” wasn’t announced until last week.

Premier Health Now asked neurologist Christopher Janson, MD, with the Clinical Neuroscience Instituteto clarify the news. Alzheimer’s disease is themost common form of dementia, he explains. The hallmark symptoms are:

  • Memory loss. Recent memories are lost at first; as the disease progresses, all memories are eventually lost.
  • Confusion about basic things, like where you are or who you are with
  • Difficulty expressing yourself and understanding what others are saying

At 74, Hanna is of average age for dementia. “The majority of patients are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, but you can get early-onset Alzheimer’s disease as young as the 40s,” Dr. Janson explains.

Although Hanna’s family stated “his condition has severely worsenedin the last few months,” Dr. Janson explains that Alzheimer’s tends to develop slowly and worsen over years. “Often there are more gradual changes over time that the patient is able to hide, making the family unaware of how severe things really are,” says Dr. Janson. “In many cases a patient reaches a point where he can no longer do things that he used to do, and then it is more obvious to the family. It may seem like a sudden change, but looking back, the signs were there.”

Any radical departure from the norm — behavioral changes, confusion, trouble with language — is a reason to bring someone in to be evaluated, says Dr. Janson. On average, Alzheimer’s progresses over the course of five to 10 years.

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Source: Christopher Janson, MD, Clinical Neuroscience Institute; The Columbus Dispatch

Jack Hanna’s Diagnosis: Why Families Miss Early Dementia Signs | Premier Health (2)

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What health issues does Jack Hannah have? ›

55KRC: Jack Hanna and Alzheimer's disease

Jack Bushnell Hanna, a retired American zookeeper and a former director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, was recently diagnosed with dementia and what is now believed by his family to be Alzheimer's disease.

Did Jack Hanna pass? ›

Jack Bushnell Hanna (born January 2, 1947) is a retired American zookeeper and a former director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Jack Hanna
Years active1973–2020
Notable workJack Hanna's Animal Adventures Jack Hanna's Into the Wild Jack Hanna's Wild Countdown
SpouseSuzi Egli ​ ( m. 1968)​
7 more rows

What is happening with Jack Hanna? ›

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Celebrity zookeeper and animal TV show host Jack Hanna has been diagnosed with dementia and will retire from public life, his family said. In a news release Wednesday, his family added that it's believed he now has Alzheimer's disease that has quickly progressed in the last few months.

Why early diagnosis is vital for dementia? ›

Early diagnosis allows for prompt access to medications and medical attention. Receiving a diagnosis can also help in the management of other symptoms which may accompany the early stage of dementia, such as depression or irritability.

How is Jack Hanna's wife's health? ›

Hanna's wife, Suzi, the daughters said, is recovering from “major surgery” as a result of “life-long challenges from her childhood leukemia.” The family asked for privacy “to keep everyone safe in light of COVID-19 restrictions.”

Why is Jack Hanna important? ›

Jack Hanna, in full Jack Bushnell Hanna, byname Jungle Jack, (born January 2, 1947, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.), American zoologist who served as director of the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo (1978–92) and became a well-known animal expert through his frequent television appearances.

Is Julie Hanna ill? ›

She continues to be his rock (and ours, too). We have great respect and admiration for Mom as we move through not only this difficult time with Dad, but also Julie's continued life-long challenges from her childhood leukemia, as she is currently recovering from major surgery.

How many children does Jack Hannah have? ›

The Hannas have been married for over 50 years and have three daughters, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Does Suzi Hanna have alzheimers? ›

SUZI Egli has been married to legendary animal expert Jack Hanna for more than five decades. It was revealed in April of 2021 that Hanna has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

How old is Jack Hanna now? ›

Is Jack Hanna's wife okay? ›

What is the most common cause of early-onset dementia? ›

Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of early-onset dementia and may affect around 1 in 3 younger people with dementia.

What is the most common for someone in the early stage of dementia? ›

Memory loss that disrupts daily life

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information.

Why are doctors reluctant to diagnose dementia? ›

Presumably, physicians were reluctant to make the diagnosis of dementia because of concerns about the potential negative impact of that diagnosis on a patient and their families; thus, they endorsed deferring a diagnosis until they were more certain.

Where does Julie Hanna live? ›

And then came Julie, who lives in Dublin. Suzi never complained when Jack would bring home a new lion, chimpanzee, goat, dog or other animal.

Where is Jack Hanna's farm in Tennessee? ›

His family's 20 acre farm sat on the corner of Ebenezer and Kingston Pike in West Knoxville. "Ebenezer was a gravel road, a little tiny gravel road. Growing up there was special.

Where is Jack Hanna's ranch in Montana? ›

It was named Elk Cabin because it sits on an old elk farm in Montana, just outside Bigfork, but since he shares this secluded retreat with his wife Suzi, they call it their “Honeymoon Suite.”

How old was Jack Hanna when he was diagnosed with dementia? ›

At 74, Hanna is of average age for dementia.

Is the Columbus Zoo ethical? ›

In addition to accreditation achieved through ZAA, the Columbus Zoo was awarded accreditation by Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums (AMMPA), an international association and accrediting body specializing in marine mammals.

Does Jack Hanna still work at Columbus Zoo? ›

While his retirement from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium officially begins on January 1, 2021, the contributions he has made to the organization after serving as both director and director emeritus for 42 years will have long-lasting, positive impacts.

Where is Julie Hannah from? ›

Hanna was born in Sohag, Egypt.

Does Jack Hanna have a daughter? ›

Jack Hanna

Does Jack Hanna have any children? ›

Jack Hanna

Does Jack Hanna have a pet? ›

Jack and his wife, Suzi, live in central Ohio and have three daughters, six grandchildren, and a yellow Labrador.

What zoo does Jack Hanna work at? ›

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium - Jack Hanna.

How many times was Jack Hanna on Letterman? ›

Letterman led off Hanna's final appearance with a guessing game: How many times had Hanna appeared on the show in 30 years? The answer is 102. Letterman said only sportscaster Marv Albert and actor/host Regis Philbin made more.

What shrinks in the brain during Alzheimer's? ›

Loss of neuronal connections and cell death

In Alzheimer's disease, as neurons are injured and die throughout the brain, connections between networks of neurons may break down, and many brain regions begin to shrink.

Does the mind diet prevent Alzheimer's? ›

Evidence supporting the MIND diet comes from observational studies of more than 900 dementia-free older adults, which found that closely following the MIND diet was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and a slower rate of cognitive decline.

What celebrity was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's? ›

Chris Hemsworth is taking a break from acting after discovering his high Alzheimer's risk.

What's the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's? ›

While dementia is a general term, Alzheimer's disease is a specific brain disease. It is marked by symptoms of dementia that gradually get worse over time. Alzheimer's disease first affects the part of the brain associated with learning, so early symptoms often include changes in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.

What causes dementia? ›

Dementia is caused by damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain. Depending on the area of the brain that's damaged, dementia can affect people differently and cause different symptoms.

Why is Jack Hanna retiring? ›

Animal and wildlife expert Jack Hanna is retiring from public life following an aggressive battle with dementia. A retired zookeeper and a director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Hanna is famous for his many appearances with his animal friends on various television shows over the years.

How many vets does the Columbus Zoo have? ›

Currently, the Zoo has a staff of four veterinarians and is home to more than 10,000 animals, which demonstrated a real need for expansion.

What is Jack Hannahs net worth? ›

What is Jack Hanna's Net Worth and Salary? Jack Hanna is an American zookeeper and author who is the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Jack Hanna has a net worth of $2.5 million dollars. Jack Hanna worked at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from 1978 to 2020.

How old is Suzi from Secrets of the Zoo? ›

Now the zoo's vice president of animal programs, Rapp, 56, spends the closest thing to an average work day nurturing sick animals, especially cheetahs, and bouncing around from one exhibit to another, making sure that all of her programs are running smoothly.

Does sugar cause dementia? ›

According to research, an unhealthy diet makes a senior like you vulnerable to the cognitive impairment brought by dementia. In fact, a well-established study about diet implicates sugar as the major culprit in increasing your risk to develop the disease.

What is the 3 word memory test? ›

The Mini-Cog test.

A third test, known as the Mini-Cog, takes 2 to 4 minutes to administer and involves asking patients to recall three words after drawing a picture of a clock. If a patient shows no difficulties recalling the words, it is inferred that he or she does not have dementia.

Do you sleep a lot with early dementia? ›

They tend to get less deep or 'slow-wave' sleep, which helps to keep the brain healthy and refreshed. Even though a person with dementia may end up sleeping more than a typical person of their age – even as much as 14–15 hours a day – it is unlikely to all be good quality sleep.

What are the first subtle signs of dementia? ›

Common early symptoms of dementia
  • memory loss.
  • difficulty concentrating.
  • finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping.
  • struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word.
  • being confused about time and place.
  • mood changes.

What is one of the first signs of cognitive decline? ›

  • You forget things more often.
  • You miss appointments or social events.
  • You lose your train of thought. ...
  • You have trouble following a conversation.
  • You find it hard to make decisions, finish a task or follow instructions.
  • You start to have trouble finding your way around places you know well.

What is the number one symptom of dementia? ›

Sign 1: Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities

However, a person living with dementia may forget things more often or may have difficulty recalling information that has recently been learned.

What disorder is often misdiagnosed as dementia? ›

Depression. The symptoms of depression are often mistaken for dementia. It is not easy to define the symptoms because many people with dementia develop signs of depression, such as feelings of low self-esteem and confidence, tearfulness and appetite, concentration and memory problems.

What other conditions can be mistaken for dementia? ›

Conditions that may be mistaken for dementia
  • Delirium. Delirium is a change in mental state or consciousness. ...
  • Depression. Depression is an illness where you have a continuous low mood and/or a loss of interest and enjoyment in your life. ...
  • Anxiety. ...
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) ...
  • Hormone (gland) conditions.

What is one cause of dementia that is not treatable? ›

Some risk factors for dementia, such as age and genetics, cannot be changed. But researchers continue to explore the impact of other risk factors on brain health and prevention of dementia.

What does Jack Hanna's daughter do? ›

Jack Hanna

Does Suzi hanna have alzheimers? ›

SUZI Egli has been married to legendary animal expert Jack Hanna for more than five decades. It was revealed in April of 2021 that Hanna has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Is Jack Hanna a good person? ›

Jack is a very caring, kind, compassionate person.

What zoo is Jack Hanna associated with? ›

Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus

His memorable appearances on Good Morning America and the Late Show with David Letterman, as well as his own Emmy® winning TV programs, have provided Jack and the Columbus Zoo the platform to educate a global audience about the natural world.

Does Jack Hanna's wife work at the zoo? ›

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jack Hanna and his wife Suzi have been married for more than 50 years. But there has been another “Suzi” in his life for nearly that long. “Oh my gosh, I worked with that man for 40 years,” says Suzi Rapp, Vice President of Animal Programs at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.


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