Dementia is the general term used to describe a decline in mental ability that interferes with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for over half of dementia cases.While Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of growing older, aging is the disease’s greatest risk factor—the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are over 65 years old. But approximately 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset—or younger-onset—Alzheimer’s, which often appears when sufferers are in their 40s or 50s.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, so its dementia symptoms gradually worsen over time. The disease typically advances in three general stages—mild (early-stage), moderate (middle-stage), and severe (late-stage).

Because Alzheimer’s affects people in diverse ways, those with the diagnosis experience its effects differently. In its early stages, memory loss is typically mild; but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.

There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but treatments for symptoms are available. And while existing treatments cannot stop the disease’s progression, they can temporarily slow dementia’s worsening effects and improve the quality of life for patients and their caregivers. Today, worldwide efforts are underway to find a cure, develop better ways to treat symptoms, and slow its onset.

Alzheimer’s is the nation’s sixth leading cause of death, and patients live an average of eight years after symptoms manifest. Survival can range from four to 20 years depending on the patient’s age and general health.

While many people experience occasional memory-loss issues, that does not necessarily indicate they are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementias. If you or a loved one experience any troubling symptoms, contact a physician. With early detection, some causes of dementia-like symptoms could be reversed.
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