ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE: Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in industrialized nations. Dementia is a brain disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities. The brain of a person with Alzheimer's has abnormal areas containing clumps (senile plaques) and bundles (neurofibrillary tangles) of abnormal proteins. These clumps and bundles destroy connections between brain cells. This usually affects the parts of the brain that control "cognitive" (intellectual) functions such as thought, memory, and language. Also, levels of certain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that carry messages around the brain are low. The resulting losses in intellectual ability are called dementia when they are severe enough to interfere with everyday functioning. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time. It cannot be cured or reversed by any known treatment.
WHO IS MOST AFFECTED: Alzheimer's mainly affects people 60 years or older. The risk of developing Alzheimer's continues to increase with age. For example, individuals 80 years old have a significantly greater risk than people 65 years old. About 5 million people in the United States and more than 30 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's. Many others have mild, or minimal, cognitive impairment, which frequently precedes dementia.
The number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to rise substantially in the next few decades because of the increasing age of the population.
WHO ELSE IS AFFECTED: The disease affects all races and ethnic groups. It seems to affect more women than men.
MILD SYMPTOMS: At the start of the disease, the symptoms are subtle at first. Over time, people with the disease lose their ability to think and reason clearly, judge situations, solve problems, concentrate, remember useful information, take care of themselves, and even speak. Changes in behavior and personality are common. People with mild Alzheimer's usually require close supervision and help with everyday tasks such as cooking, shopping, and paying bills.
SEVERE SYMPTOMS: Those individuals with severe Alzheimer's can do little on their own and require complete full-time care.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT OTHERS: Alzheimer's is considered a major public health problem. The cost of caring for people with the disease is estimated at over $100 billion per year in the United States. The average yearly cost per affected person is $20,000 to $40,000, depending on the severity of the disease. That cost doesn’t take into account the loss of quality of life for the affected person, nor the physical and emotional toll on family caregivers.
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