Alzheimer's disease (AD), also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease, is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death. It was first described by German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906 and was named after him.
An estimated 800,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s (or one in seven) live alone. People with Alzheimer’s and other dementias who live alone are exposed to higher risks—including inadequate self-care, malnutrition, untreated medical conditions, falls, wandering from home unattended and accidental deaths—compared to those who do not live alone.
People who eat more fruits and vegetables, high-fiber foods, fish, and omega-3 rich oils (sometimes known as the Mediterranean diet) and who eat less red meat and dairy may have some protection against dementia
Adults who are physically active may be less likely to get Alzheimer's disease or dementia than adults who are not physically active.3 Moderate activity is safe for most people, but it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. Older adults who stay mentally active may be at lower risk for developing Alzheimer's disease
Except for an autopsy, no test or examination can definitively identify Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, diagnosis is based on patient history (including input from family members) and clinical examination, including a test of mental status. The primary criterion is gradual loss of memory and other cognitive functions. Other disorders that can cause dementia must be ruled out; this may be facilitated by imaging of the brain and various laboratory tests.
Good evidence indicates that a genetic component predisposes some individuals to Alzheimer’s disease, but there are likely several distinct causes. The mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the death of neurons in certain areas of the cerebral cortex of the brain, especially those in which integration of new information and retrieval of memory take place.
Scientists also have found other brain changes in people with Alzheimer's disease. There is a loss of nerve cells and pathways in areas of the brain that are vital to memory and other mental abilities. There also are lower levels of some of the chemicals in the brain that carry complex messages back and forth between nerve cells.
Researchers aren't sure what causes Alzheimer's disease. Both genetics and the environment may combine in some cases. Recent research indicates that free radicals (molecules that can cause oxidation and damage cells and DNA) may play a role in the development of Alzheimer's.
As the disease progresses, problems in abstract thinking and in other intellectual functions develop. The person may begin to have trouble with figures when working on bills, with understanding what is being read, or with organizing the day's work. Further disturbances in behavior and appearance may also be seen at this point, such as agitation, irritability, quarrelsomeness, and a diminishing ability to dress appropriately.
Problems of memory, particularly for recent events (short-term memory) are common early in the course of Alzheimer's disease. For example, the individual may, on repeated occasions, forget to turn off an iron or fail to recall which of the morning's medicines were taken. Mild personality changes, such as less spontaneity, apathy, and a tendency to withdraw from social interactions, may occur early in the illness.
Alzheimer's disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. He found abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers.
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disease that causes loss of memory and mental function. It gets worse in stages, and people with Alzheimer's have gradual memory loss as well as loss of judgment, difficulty concentrating, loss of language skills, personality changes, and a decline in the ability to learn new tasks. In advanced stages, people with Alzheimer's can lose all memory and mental abilities.
5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.