What is dementia?

Dementia is a term that broadly describes the development of cognitive and intellectual deficits in several domains severe enough to disrupt daily life. Dementia can disrupt memory, language and other communications, the ability to focus, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, and is linked with a specific, irreversible type of brain damage called neurodegeneration. Age is the most important risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s Disease, but Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. The disease manifests initially with milder symptoms to progress to significant impairment in cognition and functioning.

Who gets Alzheimer’s Disease?

Anyone can get Alzheimer’s Disease. Most patients are over 65 years of age, but some develop the disease when they are younger than 65 (early-onset Alzheimer’s). Other risk factors include head trauma, cardiovascular disease and family history.

How many people are affected by Alzheimer’s Disease?

There were an estimated 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015. Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia are estimated to affect over 35 million people worldwide.

What are the causes of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s Disease is not known. The hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease pathology are extracellular β-amyloid plaques and intracellular tau tangles that can form in the brain years before symptoms. These alterations affect brain signaling, brain cells die, and connections among cells are lost. The irreversible and progressive brain damage is responsible for memory impairment, personality changes and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.

What are the typical symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease typically include trouble remembering newly learned information. As the disease worsens, symptoms can become more severe, and may include disorientation; changes in behavior; confusion about events, time and place; unjustified suspicion of family and friends; and difficulty with basic motor functions, such as speaking, swallowing, and walking.

Is there a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?

We don’t have a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease yet. But drug treatments and lifestyle changes can help with symptoms of the disease. In addition, patients can enroll in clinical trials.

Will I be put on medication for Alzheimer’s Disease?

There are two types of medications that are approved by the US Food and Drug administration for Alzheimer’s Disease: cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. These drugs can help improve some symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion. However, these medications cannot prevent brain cells from dying in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, and so the disease will worsen over time.

How else can I improve my symptoms?

Several lifestyle considerations may help maintain brain health in people with and without Alzheimer’s Disease. Following a healthy diet with vegetables, legumes, fruit, cereals, and unsaturated fatty acids (like olive oil) may be helpful. Pursuing regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, while artistic pursuits can be helpful in managing stress.

Alternative therapies have not been thoroughly studied. Some supplements may not be effective or safe, in particular when taken alongside other medications. Ask your health care provider for guidance.


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