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Alzheimer’s disease is the
most common cause of mental decline, or
dementia. But dementia also has many other causes. For
more information, see the topic
What is Alzheimer's disease?
brain . It causes a steady loss of memory and of how
well you can speak, think, and carry on daily activities.
Alzheimer's disease always gets worse over time, but how quickly this
happens varies. Some people lose the ability to do daily activities early on.
Others may still do fairly well until much later in the disease.
Mild memory loss is common in people older than 60. It may not mean that you
have Alzheimer’s disease. But if your memory is getting worse, see your doctor.
If it is Alzheimer’s, treatment may help.
What causes Alzheimer's disease?
disease happens because of changes in the brain. These include lower levels of
chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that help brain
cells work properly. What causes these changes is not clear.
risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease increases as you get older. But this does
not mean that everyone will get it. By age 85, about 35 out of 100 people have
some form of
dementia.1 That means that 65
out of 100 don't have it. Dementia is rare before age 60.
a relative with Alzheimer’s raises your risk of getting it, but most people
with Alzheimer's disease do not have a family history of it.
What are the symptoms?
For most people, the first
symptom of Alzheimer's disease is memory loss. Often the person who has a
memory problem does not notice it, but family and friends do. But the person
with the disease may also know that something is wrong.
disease gets worse, the person may:
- Have trouble making decisions.
Be confused about what time and day it is.
- Get lost in places he
or she knows well.
- Have trouble learning and remembering new
- Have trouble finding the right words to say what he
or she wants to say.
- Have more trouble doing daily tasks like
cooking a meal or paying bills.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s get worse slowly over time.
A person who gets these symptoms over a few hours or days or whose symptoms
suddenly get worse needs to see a doctor right away, because there may be
As people with Alzheimer’s get worse, they may
get restless and wander, especially in late afternoon and at night. This is
called sundowning. Over time, they may also start to act very different. They
may withdraw from family and friends. They may see or hear things that are not
really there. They may
falsely believe that others are lying, cheating, using
them, or trying to harm them. They may strike out at others.