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Glossary of Alzheimer's Disease Terms


Assisted living facility: A residential care setting that combines housing, support services, and health care for people in the early or middle stages of a disabling disease, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Associated disorders: Other medical or surgical conditions that are present at the same time which may or may not be contributing to the problem at hand.

Asymptomatic: When there are no symptoms or no clear sign that disease is present.

Atrophy: Shrinking in size; often used to describe the loss of brain tissue seen in Alzheimer's disease during an autopsy.

Autonomy: A person's ability to make independent choices.

Autopsy: The examination of a body's tissues and organs after death.

Behavioral neurologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral and memory disorders that are due to brain disease.

Behavioral symptoms: In Alzheimer's disease, emotional symptoms, such as wandering, depression, anxiety, hostility, and sleep disturbances.

Beneficiary: An individual named in a will who is designated to receive all or part of an estate upon the death of the person who made the will.

Binswanger's disease: A type of dementia associated with stroke-related changes in the brain.

Biomarker: Used to indicate or measure a biological process; for example, levels of a specific protein in blood or spinal fluid. Detecting biomarkers specific to a disease can aid in the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of affected individuals, as well as people who may be at risk but who do not yet have symptoms.

Blood-brain barrier: The selective barrier that controls the entry of substances from the blood into the brain.

Blood tests: A series of tests routinely done on blood to look for abnormalities associated with various diseases and conditions.

Brain: Along with the spinal cord, the brain makes up the central nervous system. It is the center of thought and emotion. It's responsible for the coordination and control of bodily activities and the interpretation of information from the senses.

Calcium: An element taken in through the diet that is essential for a variety of bodily functions, such as the communication between nerves, muscle contraction, and proper heart function. Imbalances of calcium can lead to many health problems and can cause nerve cell death.

Calcium channel blocker: A drug that blocks the entry of calcium into cells, thereby reducing activities that require calcium, such as nerve cell communication. Calcium channel blockers are used primarily in the treatment of certain heart conditions but are being studied as potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

Caregiver: The primary person in charge of caring for an individual with a serious illness, such as Alzheimer's disease; usually a family member or a designated health care professional.

Care planning: A written action plan containing strategies for delivering care that addresses an individual's specific needs or problems.

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