Alzheimer’s disease is a neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die. This is the most common cause of dementia – a continuous decline in thinking and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.
Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease. There are 50 million people worldwide with dementia, between 60% and 70% are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory loss is the key symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Early signs include difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory impairments worsen and other symptoms develop.
A number of conditions, including treatable conditions, can result in memory loss or other dementia symptoms. If you are concerned about your memory or other thinking skills, talk to your doctor for a thorough assessment and diagnosis.
If you are concerned about thinking skills you observe in a family member or friend, talk about your concerns and ask about going together to a doctor’s appointment.
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t fully understood. But at a basic level, brain proteins fail to function normally, which disrupts the work of brain cells (neurons) and triggers a series of toxic events. Neurons are damaged, lose connections to each other and eventually die.
Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.
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