From Emory University's Goizueta Alzheimer's Disease Research Center
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory, thinking, understanding, language, and eventually even the most basic functions of swallowing are impacted. The disease has early (mild), middle (moderate) and late (severe) stages. In the early stage of AD, people have problems with their recent memory such as who called them on the phone, keeping track of appointments and remembering to take their medications. In the early stage of Alzheimer’s long term memory is not impaired. People with early Alzheimer’s disease can easily remember many details about their childhood and other earlier phases of their life.
With time, other areas of thinking become affected. These may include new difficulty with:
In the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease short term memory is significantly impaired and people become repetitive. Problems with long term memory become more evident. Families begin to notice changes in their loved ones ability to do daily activities such as grooming and dressing. While they are still physically capable of dressing they often begin to change clothes less frequently or wear the same clothes over and over again. At about the same time people with Alzheimer’s disease may begin to bathe less frequently than has been their life long pattern. Sometimes these changes have been so gradual that families have been compensating without realizing the significance of these changes.
During the middle stage of AD people often begin to have changes in personality and behavior. Some of these changes present major challenges to the family and require the family to learn new skills to cope with the changes.
Today we believe that the changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease begin a decade or more before problems become evident. During this time period people are free of symptoms, but lethal changes are taking place in the brain. Abnormal deposits of proteins form amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, causing the neurons to work less efficiently. Over time, these neurons stop functioning all together and eventually die. The neuron death eventually spread to the hippocampus, which is essential in forming memories. As more neurons die, affected brain regions begin to shrink
Information in this section has been taken from an internet publication called Alzheimer's News Today, published by BioNews Services.
There is a rapid growth in the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease, and only around one in four people with the disease get diagnosed.
It is estimated that there are approximately 44 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. In the U.S., an estimated 5.5 million people of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. Of these, around 5.3 million are 65 and older and 200,000 are younger and have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
About two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women. This equals to 3.3 million women, age 65 and older having Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. and two million men.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are most common in Western Europe (with North America close behind) and least common in Sub-Saharan Africa. African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia as whites. Hispanics are about 1.5 times as likely to have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia as whites.
Reports from the National Institute on Aging indicate that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years beyond the age of 65. As the population ages, the disease impacts a greater percentage of people. At present, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds. It is thought that by the middle of the century, someone in the U.S. will develop the disease every 33 seconds and the total number of people with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. could rise to as high as 16 million people by 2050.Having a big sale, on-site celebrity, or other event? Be sure to announce it so everybody knows and gets excited about it.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 89 percent while those from heart disease have decreased. Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth-leading cause of death among those aged 65 and older and a leading cause of disability and poor health. Typical life expectancy after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is four to eight years.
It is estimated that one to four family members act as caregivers for each individual with Alzheimer’s disease. In 2016, 15.9 million family and friends provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the U.S., a contribution to the nation valued at $230.1 billion.
Compared to caregivers of people without dementia, caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease indicate substantial emotional, financial, and physical difficulties. About 35 percent of caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia report that their health has gotten worse due to care responsibilities.
The costs of health care and long-term care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are substantial. The global cost of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is estimated to be $605 billion, which is equivalent to one percent of the entire world’s gross domestic product.
In the U.S., total payments in 2017 for all individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are estimated to be around $259 billion, with $175 billion covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Out-of-pocket spending is estimated to be $56 billion. By 2050, Alzheimer’s disease could cost the U.S. as much as $1.1 trillion.
Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Alzheimer's disease is a type of Dementia. Dementia is considered the umbrella, describing a category of diseases with symptoms including loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills that interfere with a person's daily life and activities. Alzheimer's disease is the most common of all of the dementia diseases.
Forgetfulness or memory problems are typically one of the first signs of Alzheimer's disease, although not 100% of the time. A decline in other aspects of thinking, like finding the right words, visual/spatial concerns, impaired reasoning problems, or judgement issues may indicate the very early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
Just because a close family member has Alzheimer's disease, doesn't mean that you will get Alzheimer's disease too. FAD, A rare form of Alzheimer's disease called early onset familial Alzheimer's disease, is inherited. This form of Alzheimer's disease is caused by mutations or changes in certain genes. If one of these gene mutations is passed to a child, s/he may have FAD. However, this is not always the case. Most cases of Alzheimer's are late onset, occurring in the mid-60s or later. A heredity link has not been determined.
There currently is not a cure for Alzheimer's disease. There are medications available to control symptoms, however they may not be effective for everyone
Currently, there is no evidence that Alzheimer's disease can be prevented. However, a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, a healthy diet, no smoking, and keeping a healthy weight, are thought to lower the risk of certain chronic diseases and increase your overall health. Scientist believe that a healthy lifestyle may slow or prevent Alzheimer's disease.
There are many resources available. A few of them are printed here. Please see our resources page for additional resources:
Eldercare Locator: 800.677.1116/eldercare.acl.gov
National Council on Aging
Family Caregiver Alliance
800.445.8106 caregiver.org / family-care-navigator
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