What is Alzheimer’s disease?
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
- It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
- Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
- It can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
What is known about Alzheimer’s Disease?
Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease. There likely is not a single cause but rather several factors that can affect each person differently.
- Age is the best-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Family history—researchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, genes do not equal destiny. A healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Two large, long-term studies indicate that adequate physical activity, a nutritious diet, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking may help people. To learn more about the study, you can listen to a short podcast.
- changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear.
Researchers are studying whether education, diet, and environment play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- There is growing scientific evidence that healthy behaviors, which have been shown to prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, may also reduce the risk for subjective cognitive decline
What are the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
In addition to memory problems, someone with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may experience one or more of the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Decreased or poor judgment.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
Even if you or someone you know has several or even most of these signs, it doesn’t mean it’s Alzheimer’s disease.
What to do if you suspect Alzheimer’s disease
Getting checked by your healthcare provider can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to Alzheimer’s disease or a more treatable condition such as a vitamin deficiency or a side effect from medication. Early and accurate diagnosis also provides opportunities for you and your family to consider financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.
How is Alzheimer’s disease treated?
Medical management can improve the quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and for their caregivers. There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatment addresses several areas:
- Helping people maintain brain health.
- Managing behavioral symptoms.
- Slowing or delaying symptoms of the disease.
Support for family and friends
Currently, many people living with Alzheimer’s disease are cared for at home by family members. Caregiving can have positive aspects for the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. It may bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver, such as satisfaction from helping a family member or friend, and lead to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease at home can be a difficult task and may become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimer’s disease often need more intensive care.
Resources on Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Health
CD Healthy Brain Initiative
The Healthy Brain Initiative
State and Local Public Health Partnerships to Address Dementia: The 2018-2023 Road Map [PDF – 19.3 MB]
Other Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Health Resources
Alzheimer’s Association – Louisiana Chapter
Louisiana Department of Health – Office of Aging and Adult Services
Alzheimer’s Disease Public Health Curriculum [PDF – 10 MB]
Brain Health as You Age [PDF – 371 KB]
National Institute on Aging
Us Against Alzheimer’s
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention