Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. It accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with the disease are 65 and older. But it is not just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, that gets worse over time where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. It is is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.
While there is no cure for the disease or a way to stop or slow its progression, there are drug and non-drug options that may help treat symptoms. Understanding available options can help individuals living with the disease and their caregivers to cope with symptoms and improve quality of life.
Effective communication with your doctor is important when you are seeking a diagnosis for memory loss. Ask questions, be prepared to answer questions and be as honest as possible.