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Health Physical and Mental Health

What to know about Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline.

It is the most common type of dementia, accounting for around 60–80% of cases of dementia in the United States.

Alzheimer’s disease affects around 5 million peopleTrusted Source in the U.S. Estimates suggest that this number will nearly triple by 2060.

The condition usually affects people aged 65 years and over, with only 10%Trusted Source of cases occurring in people younger than this.

This article provides an overview of Alzheimer’s disease, including its symptoms, causes, and possible treatment options.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that affects the brain. The symptoms are mild at first and become more severe over time. It is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first described the condition in 1906.

Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include memory loss, language problems, and impulsive or unpredictable behavior.

One of the main features of the condition is the presence of plaques and tangles in the brain. Another feature is a loss of connection between the nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain.

These features mean that information cannot pass easily between different areas of the brain or between the brain and the muscles or organs.

As the symptoms worsen, it becomes harder for people to remember recent events, to reason, and to recognize people they know. Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may need full-time assistance.

According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. However, other recent estimates suggest that it may be the third leading cause of death, just behind heart disease and cancer.

Symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, meaning that the symptoms get worse over time. Memory loss is a key feature, and this tends to be one of the first symptoms to develop.

The symptoms appear gradually, over months or years. If they develop over hours or days, a person may require medical attention, as this could indicate a stroke.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Memory loss: A person may have difficulty taking in new information and remembering information. This can lead to:
    • repeating questions or conversations
    • losing objects
    • forgetting about events or appointments
    • wandering or getting lost
  • Cognitive deficits: A person may experience difficulty with reasoning, complex tasks, and judgment. This can lead to:
    • a reduced understanding of safety and risks
    • difficulty with money or paying bills
    • difficulty making decisions
    • difficulty completing tasks that have several stages, such as getting dressed
  • Problems with recognition: A person may become less able to recognize faces or objects or less able to use basic tools. These issues are not due to problems with eyesight.
  • Problems with spatial awareness: A person may have difficulty with their balance, trip over, or spill things more often, or they may have difficulty orienting clothing to their body when getting dressed.
  • Problems with speaking, reading, or writing: A person may develop difficulties with thinking of common words, or they may make more speech, spelling, or writing errors.
  • Personality or behavior changes: A person may experience changes in personality and behavior that include:
    • becoming upset, angry, or worried more often than before
    • a loss of interest in or motivation for activities they usually enjoy
    • a loss of empathy
    • compulsive, obsessive, or socially inappropriate behavior

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