Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder that affects the brain, impacting memory and basic thinking skills. It is the most common form of dementia and typically develops in people over the age of 65, though some in their 40s and 50s may develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers believe that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a complex combination of factors related to genetics, environment and lifestyle. It’s also become clear in recent years that the damage in the brain may begin many years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s occur.
Some research has noted the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and other circulation problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. It also appears that lifestyle choices that are good for the whole body -- such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight -- may play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease in some people.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, so the symptoms start out subtly and gradually worsen over time. It may begin with trouble finding the right word, a decline in reasoning and judgment or issues with vision and spatial awareness, though these are not always related to Alzheimer’s. Over time, people gradually see their memory loss continue and confusion increase. In its end stages, the decline in brain function leads to total loss of communication, and the person is often bedridden as other parts of the body are affected by the loss of brain function.
TreatmentThough there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, it can be treated. Treatment to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s usually involves a combination of medication, therapy and counseling. Support groups are also helpful for people with Alzheimer’s disease and those who care for them. The best results of treatment are usually in those in whom the disease is diagnosed early.
SOURCES: Alzheimer’s Association; U.S. National Institute on Aging
New survey results illustrate the ups and downs of caring for aging family members
Study didn't find same link in men
Genetic test might one day diagnose the disease before symptoms occur, researchers say
Long-term study suggests inability to identify scents may be early sign of problems
But study didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship
Rates have fallen among those 70 and older; gains against heart disease might explain trend
If your genes predispose you to the illness, 65 to 75 may be high-risk years
For every 1 percent drop in sleep's REM phase, a 9 percent jump in odds for thinking, memory troubles, study found
Annual costs may top $320,000, study estimates
Researchers say proton pump inhibitors like Nexium or Prilosec not linked to dementia
But the research only found an association, not cause-and-effect connection
Of greatest importance are diabetes, blood pressure and smoking, researchers say
Stick to familiar routines, advises Alzheimer's Foundation
In small study, electrical currents helped distinguish Alzheimer's from another form of brain trouble
Reducing mid-life hearing loss might make the biggest difference
Last new drug for the memory-robbing disease was introduced in the United States in 2003
Skills lost, such as dressing or bathing, can potentially be relearned, small study suggests
Studies found sleep apnea tied to higher levels of tell-tale plaques, proteins in brain
Regular puzzlers score better on tests of mental function, study finds
New studies suggest that, yes, eating right could boost your brain function
Researchers find head injuries from fighting cause brain changes that might spur troubles later in life
A few bad nights might not hurt, but chronic sleep problems may be cause for concern, researcher says
Small study found an association but didn't prove link
Seniors whose pace dropped showed shrinkage in brain region linked to memory, spatial orientation
New research debunks other studies suggesting that medications used to treat ulcers, reflux cause mental decline
The public should be aware of this encouraging research, expert says
Researchers believe these substances form in early stages of the memory-robbing disease
With U.S. cases expected to triple to 16 million by 2050, support for caregivers desperately needed
More patients also dying at home, with the caregiving burden falling on loved ones
Gene-based research suggests that, instead, early stage disease might cause weight loss
Careers, finances may take a hit because of caregiving demands, researchers say
If beta-amyloid plaques are present in the brain, process is even faster, study finds
But negative relationships with children, spouse increased chances, study finds
Researchers suggest they're a potential target for treating the disease
Study suggests -- but does not prove -- a possible link to stroke, dementia
Deep brain stimulation appears to help, but much more research is needed, scientists say
In study, mice regained memory skills after transfusion of human umbilical cord blood
Dementia expert says take up heart-healthy habits sooner rather than later
But more recent symptoms may be part of the disease
Researchers suspect people may breathe saliva or food into their lungs due to fatigue from the drugs
Saliva analysis can indicate higher risk of Parkinson's disease, among others, agency says
Brain expert says it's unlikely that any one nutrient would be a 'silver bullet'
Aricept is often prescribed for mild mental impairment without actual approval