What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a form of memory loss and other abilities that can interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is a common cause of dementia, with it being 60-80% of dementia cases. The majority of individuals living with Alzheimer’s are age 65 or older. However, this is not a normal part of aging. Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs in individuals under the age of 65. Alzheimer’s worsens over time, and progresses in stages. In earlier stages memory loss may be mild or temporary. But as stages progress memory loss becomes more severe. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
Scientists are still conducting research to find out the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are factors that possibly play into this diagnosis such as changes in the brain rather age-related or due to the production of the amyloid protein (see treatment section for information on amyloid). Additional risk factors include diet, exercise, environment, and past medical history. Age is not a cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but instead is a risk factor.
Diagnosis and Treatments
Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed by tests such as a CT, MRI, or PET scan. In addition, collection of a patient’s symptoms, medications, past medical history, social history, any changes in ability to daily activities, and recent behavior changes. Some physicians may also conduct memory, problem solving, or attention tests.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are some treatments that may help slow progression of the disease. There is a newer treatment called aducanumab, that is showing removal of amyloid from the brain. Amyloid is an abnormal protein produced that is prevalent in Alzheimer’s disease. By removing amyloid, this treatment can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.