Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive, irreversible disorder of the brain and the most common form of dementia. The disease affects the cognitive parts of the brain that are involved in thinking, remembering, and using language. It can severely impair a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Dementia isn’t a specific disease, but rather a general term to describe any loss or decline in brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior, and is serious enough to interfere with daily functions. There are numerous types of dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent.
Alzheimer’s disease typically affects people age 60 or older, and your risk of developing the disease doubles every 5 years after the age of 65. An estimated 5.2 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, as of a 2014 report released by the Alzheimer’s Association. About 5 million of these people are over the age of 65. According to the CDC, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 5th leading cause of death in people age 65 and older.
Alzheimer’s Causes and Risk Factors
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the excessive shrinking of certain brain tissues, which occurs when neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and eventually die. It’s not known how this process begins, but the brains of people with Alzheimer’s contain amyloid plaques (which are abnormal protein deposits between neurons) and neurofibrillary tangles (twisted strands of a protein called tau) that likely affect neurons. Research suggests that the genes you inherit may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Other risk factors include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Making healthy choices like eating healthy, moderate alcohol, an active lifestyle, and adequate sleep may slow or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a checklist of common symptoms to help you recognize the difference between normal age-related memory changes and possible warning signs of Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association stresses that it’s critical for people diagnosed with dementia and families to receive info, care and support as early as possible.
Early Warning Signs
• Memory loss
• Difficulty performing familiar tasks
• New problems with writing / speaking
• Confusion with time and place
• Poor or decreased judgment
• Problems with abstract thinking
• Misplacing things
• Changes in mood or behavior
• Trouble understanding visual images
• Withdrawing from social activities
To view the full checklist, visit http://www.alz.org/10-signs-symptoms-alzheimers-dementia.asp