About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disease that slowly destroys memory skills, thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out daily activities, leading to the need for full-time care. Dementia is the general term for a group of brain disorders that cause problems with thinking, memory and behavior. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Symptoms vary from person to person, but all people with Alzheimer’s disease have problems with memory loss, disorientation and thinking ability. Texas Department of State Health Services
Most Common Cause of Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The term dementia is used to define brain diseases related to memory loss and diminished cognitive skills. Other types of dementia include:
- vascular dementia
- dementia with Lewy bodies
- mixed dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
An estimated five million Americans now have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events is often an early clinical symptom; apathy and depression are also often early symptoms. Later symptoms include impaired communication, disorientation, confusion, poor judgment, behavioral changes and, ultimately, difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking. The hallmark pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease are the accumulation of the protein fragment beta-amyloid (plaques) outside neurons in the brain and twisted strands of the protein tau (tangles) inside neurons. These changes are accompanied by the death of neurons and damage to brain tissue. Alzheimer’s is a slowly progressive brain disease that begins many years before symptoms emerge.
Facts about Alzheimer’s Disease in the U.S.
Women have a higher risk
Nearly twice as many women have Alzheimer’s disease as men, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Alzheimer’s disease also worsens more quickly in women than it does in men.
Brain shrinkage tends to be more severe in women with Alzheimer’s disease than in men with the disease. Researchers suggest that brain changes in women with Alzheimer’s disease may be due to other causes.
Your heart and your head are closely related
Heart disease can raise your risk of getting AD. Other conditions that cause heart disease are also linked to a higher risk of getting AD, including:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- poor diet
- non-active lifestyle
Heart disease may also be a cause of vascular dementia, which results from narrowed blood vessels in the brain. This leads to a decrease in oxygen to brain tissues.
Education can lower your risk
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the more education you have, the lower your risk of getting AD. You have lower odds of getting AD if you keep your brain active in old age by doing activities such as:
- taking classes
- learning languages
- playing musical instruments
Doing group activities or interacting with others also may lower your risk.
Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of death
The Alzheimer’s Association states that Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. About one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source reported that Alzheimer’s disease claimed more than 84,000 lives in the U.S. Only heart disease, cancer, some respiratory diseases, stroke, and accidents caused more deaths than Alzheimer’s disease.
Life expectancy varies
The time it takes for AD to progress varies from person to person, so it’s hard to predict how long someone with the condition will live. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that older adults usually live three to four years with AD. Younger adults who get the disease may live with the condition for 10 years or more.
List of Facts provided by Healthline and medically reviewed on September 19, 2016