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Alzheimer's Disease Basics
Alzheimer's disease slowly damages, and then destroys, a
person’s memory, judgment, reasoning skills, personality,
autonomy, and bodily functions. It's a serious and scary
condition. That's why it is essential to educate yourself—
to take care of your loved one, you'll need to know all
you can.

What is Alzheimer's Disease?
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s
disease (AD). AD is a progressive and irreversible brain
disorder. The actual cause of AD is unknown. AD slowly
damages, and then destroys, a person’s memory,
judgment, reasoning skills, personality, autonomy, and
The disease specifically affects several components of the
brain. These include:
 a gradual loss of brain cells, called neurons

   damage to neurons so they no longer function properly
   loss of neural connections—called synapses— where
messages are passed from neuron to neuron
Forgetfulness: A Normal Part of Aging?
It’s normal to sometimes forget things, but as we age, it
often takes longer to learn new skills or remember words,
names, or where we left our glasses. Of course, this does
not mean an individual has dementia. In fact, scientists have
found that healthy older adults perform just as well as their
young counterparts on complex and learning tests—if given
extra time to complete.
However, there’s a difference between occasional
forgetfulness and behavior that may be cause for concern.
Not recognizing a familiar face, trouble performing
common tasks (such as using the telephone or driving
home); or being unable to comprehend or recall recent
information are all red flags that need to be checked by a
medical professional.
Who Gets AD?
Also known as late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, AD is
primarily a disease of the elderly. The first noticeable
symptoms can occur as early as age 60.
When AD runs in families, it’s called familial Alzheimer’s
disease (FAD). AD sometimes can affect people as young
as 30. This type of AD is called early-onset AD. It is rare
and affects less than one out of every 1,000 people with
The underlying cause or causes of AD, and specific risk
factors, remain unclear. Yet experts believe AD is likely
due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
Lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and staying
mentally active like learning new skills, also are factors.

About 5.3 million Americans have AD, according to the
National Institutes of Health (NIH). That number will only
climb as the elderly population rises.
AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the
fifth leading in Americans age 65 and older. Worldwide,
approximately 24 million people have AD.
What’s Being Done?
Scientists are working to better understand AD in order to
create more effective early diagnostic tools, improve treatments,
and perhaps even discover a cure.
In terms of what’s immediately available, there are numerous
reputable resources and services for people who suffer with AD
and their loved ones and caregivers. Some current treatment
options even may slow the progression of AD, however, their
effectiveness varies and diminishes over time.

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