As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult for the person diagnosed and their loved ones. Few medical treatments exist, but there are other therapies and support resources.
Alzheimer’s disease is a primary cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease damages nerve cells in the brain. In the early stages, there may not be many, if any, symptoms. Short-term memory loss is often the first sign.
Over time, as more neurons are damaged, Alzheimer’s disease results in problems with judgment, language, and thought processes. Eventually, it affects a person’s ability to function and care for themselves.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be very upsetting for the person who receives the diagnosis and for their loved ones.
There’s ongoing research into ways to prevent and manage Alzheimer’s disease. As we learn more about how Alzheimer’s disease develops, we may be able to prevent or slow the progression.
There are a few medical treatments available. The newest medication, called Aduhelm (aducanumab), was just approved in
There’s ongoing research for other therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. There’s also hope that someday a cure can be found.
Here are some key stats and figures about Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The term dementia is used to define brain diseases related to memory loss and diminished cognitive skills. Alzheimer’s disease is probably the most recognized type, but there are other types of dementia.
- vascular dementia
- dementia with Lewy bodies
- mixed dementia
- dementia caused by Parkinson’s disease
- dementia caused by Huntington’s disease
Stats from 2022 estimate that there are more than 6.5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.
Rates of Alzheimer’s disease are significantly higher in women, according to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association. The report, which grouped participants into men and women, estimated that the lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is 1 in 5 for women. For men, the rate is half of that, at 1 in 10.
One of the reasons for higher rates in women is that women tend to live longer. Age is considered the biggest risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Another theory is that women born before 1950 didn’t typically have as much formal education as men. Lower levels of education are associated with higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease seems to progress more quickly in women than it does in men. Research suggests that women often receive a diagnosis at later stages. Typically, women have an advantage over men when it comes to memory and recall. It’s possible that changes in memory are
There may be some associations between hormonal changes over the life cycle and Alzheimer’s disease. Several
It’s possible that starting hormone replacement therapy
People who experienced hypertensive disorders in pregnancy had greater
It’s also possible that there’s something else at play that puts people at risk of both hypertensive disorders during pregnancy and Alzheimer’s disease in later life.
There’s interesting research on how inflammation in one part of the body can lead to inflammation in other parts. In Alzheimer’s disease, there’s a buildup of inflammatory proteins in the brain. Many chronic conditions including diabetes and heart disease are also shown to involve inflammation.
There are links between heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. All of these are recognized to involve inflammation in different parts of the body.
According to a
There are things you can do to help prevent or manage heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. These things may play a role in preventing or managing Alzheimer’s disease.
- eating an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean way of eating
- regular monitoring of blood pressure and treatment with dietary changes, activity, and medications, as needed
- quitting or cutting down on smoking if you smoke
- practicing physical activity
- managing cholesterol levels with dietary changes and medications, as needed
- monitoring blood sugar levels and managing prediabetes or diabetes with dietary changes, physical activity, and medications, as needed
Heart disease may also be a cause of vascular dementia, which results from narrowed blood vessels in the brain. This leads to a decrease in oxygen to brain tissues.
There’s an association between higher education levels and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. More formal education may shape the brain differently starting from a young age. Learning new things creates more connections between neurons and may make the brain more resistant to damage.
It’s also possible that the higher income that often comes with more education may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s never too late to learn something new and expand your social networks. Doing group activities or having more social contacts may also lower your risk.
Consider the following things that are especially good for your brain:
- taking classes
- learning languages
- joining community groups to increase social contact
The Alzheimer’s Association states that Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. About 1 in 3 people over 65 years die with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 121,499 people died from Alzheimer’s disease in the United States in 2019. This number may not be very accurate, as it’s based on the official cause of reported death. Other health conditions are often made worse in a person with Alzheimer’s disease. This can reduce life expectancy.
Only heart disease, cancer, some respiratory diseases, stroke, and accidents caused more deaths than Alzheimer’s disease.
Rates of Alzheimer’s disease increase with age. In the United States, 5 percent of people ages 65 to 74 have Alzheimer’s disease. These rates increase to 13.1 percent in people between the ages of 75 and 84. Among people ages 85 and up, 33.2 percent have Alzheimer’s disease.
Research on Alzheimer’s, like so many other research, lacks diversity. Participants in studies don’t accurately reflect the diverse population in the United States. This is an issue for all health conditions, but especially for a condition like Alzheimer’s disease, which may disproportionately affect People of Color.
Data shows that 18.6 percent of Blacks and 14 percent of Hispanics over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. This is much higher than the 10 percent of White people over the age of 65 with Alzheimer’s disease.
Higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease in People of Color isn’t likely due to genetic differences. It’s more likely related to structural racism that creates major barriers to accessing healthcare and increases rates of poverty. Structural racism affects education, income, stress, housing, and exposure to violence.
With more than 6.5 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s disease, the cost of treating the condition continues to rise. In 2016 the annual cost was about $236 billion. In 2022, this number was projected to rise to $321 billion.
The number of people with the disease is expected to increase in the years ahead. It’s estimated that Alzheimer’s disease may cost the United States just under $1 trillion by 2050.
A German doctor named Alois Alzheimer first observed Alzheimer’s disease in 1906. He described a patient known as Auguste D. who had memory loss and other problems with thinking.
After the patient’s death, Dr. Alzheimer noted that parts of the patient’s brain were shrunken. A psychiatrist who worked with Dr. Alzheimer named the condition in 1910.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may lose their sense of smell.
It’s important to note that changes in your ability to smell may also be due to other causes, such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- brain injury
- sinus infection
It’s hard to predict how long someone with Alzheimer’s disease will live. There are so many factors that determine life expectancy after this diagnosis.
The stage of the disease in which a person receives a diagnosis will affect life expectancy. The progression of Alzheimer’s disease will also vary from person to person.
It’s estimated that people will live an average of 4 to 8 years after diagnosis. There are people who live up to 20 years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.