Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 70 percent of all cases of dementia, or loss of intellectual function, among the elderly.
  • Alzheimer’s has no cure, but treatment can slow its progression and help control some of its symptoms.
  • Improved understanding and early detection can make the challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s more manageable.

Next Step

Learn to identify the most common warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Alzheimer’s disease is a common degenerative condition that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, resulting in progressive memory loss, behavioral changes, and deterioration of thinking and language skills. While some symptoms overlap with those of ordinary aging, the changes brought about by Alzheimer’s are not a normal part of the aging process.

The causes of Alzheimer’s are still unknown; age is the most important known risk factor. An estimated one in ten people over 65 years old have Alzheimer’s, and nearly half of people age 85 and older. The average duration of the disease is about eight years, but some may live with it for a much longer period.

Alzheimer’s leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks, affecting nearly all of its functions. Alzheimer’s causes two types of abnormal structures in the brain, plaques (abnormal protein clusters) and tangles (twisted protein strands). It remains unclear whether these structures cause the disease or are a result of it.

Because of its dramatic effects on memory, personality, and mood, Alzheimer’s presents especially difficult challenges for caregivers and family members. The more you know about the disease, its symptoms, and treatment options, the better you’ll be able to meet those challenges. Early detection is another key to a less traumatic Alzheimer’s experience.

Next Step: Learn to identify the most common warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Experts at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America have the answers to your toughest Alzheimer’s and dementia questions.

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