Named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is irreversible and progressive.
This disease slowly affects memory and thinking skills and it gradually affects the entire brain, making even the simplest tasks impossible.
Ranked as the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., it is thought to be the 3rd leading cause of death for older people.
Scientists believe that for most people, AD is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. The exact cause is unknown.
At its core are problems with brain proteins and chemicals, in turn causing structural problems.
This damage most often starts in the portion of the brain controlling memory, though not in every type of dementia. Scientists now know the process may begin up to a decade before the first symptoms are noticed. And while the loss spreads in a somewhat predictable pattern to other regions of the brain, each person with dementia is different, making progression different. By the late stage of the disease, the brain has shrunk significantly due to cell death.
There is currently no specific treatment or cure for this disease. Early detection is key so that the person living with AD can be involved in their financial and care plans.
The symptoms of the disease usually first appear after age 60 and the risk increases with age.
People younger than age 60 may get Alzheimer’s disease, but it is less common. This is often referred to as “young-onset” Alzheimer’s. And it has its own life-challenges above and beyond the more typical over age 60 onset. Alzheimer’s disease has a tremendous impact at any age. But we don’t expect to see dementia at a young age, so problems emerging at work or home any be misunderstood with young-onset.
The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. This is primarily thought to be a result of people living longer and populations growing annually. It is estimated that over 44 million people in the world are living with Alzheimer’s disease or some other cognitive impairment causing dementia.