Alzheimer's Disease Facts
Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.
- Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, but Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).
- Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over time. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.
Alzheimer’s disease comes as a result of microscopic changes in the brain that occur long before the first signs of memory loss.
The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell connects with many others to form communication networks…To do their work, brain cells operate like tiny factories… Scientists believe Alzheimer’s disease prevents parts of a cell’s factory from running well. They are not sure where the trouble starts. But just like a real factory, backups, and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas.
As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs and, eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain. Plaque and tangles develop within the brain as we age. It’s the destruction and death of nerve cells thought to be influenced by the formation of the plaque and tangles that cause memory failure, personality changes, problems carrying out daily activities and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
-The Most Common Cause of Dementia and Memory Loss
-Not a Normal Part of Aging. (Approximately 200,000 Americans under 65 have early-onset Alzheimer's Disease)
-a progressive disease where dementia symptoms worsen over time
- the sixth leading cause of death in the United States
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life.
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information.
Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us eventually notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign that brain cells are failing.
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information because Alzheimer’s changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning. As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain, it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood, and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends.
10 Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
- Forgetting recently learned information, important dates, and events, asking the same question repetitively.
- Increasing difficulty with following a plan, problem-solving, completing a sequential task to conclusion.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks, driving to familiar locations, remembering rules of a familiar game.
- Confusion with the concept of the passage of time or recognizing place (i.e., keeping track of the date, season, the passage of time)
- The trouble with visual images and spatial relationships such as in judging distance and determining color contrast causing issues with driving and other functions where contrast and depth perception is needed.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing such as having trouble following a conversation. May repeat what has been said by someone else as new information; believes new information they bring is new to everyone. Uses the wrong word for objects.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Forgets what they did with things and accuses someone of stealing them.
- Decreased or poor judgment taking risks where they shouldn’t
- Withdrawal from work or social activities due to difficulty in holding conversations
- Changes in mood and personal such as confusion, suspicion, depression, fearfulness or anxiety are common.