Alzheimer's Disease

(Alzheimer's Dementia)

Definition

Alzheimer's disease is a condition that destroys brain cells. People with this disease slowly lose the ability to learn, function, and remember. It is the most common cause of dementia . Dementia is a loss in mental abilities that is great enough to interfere with daily life.
Areas of the Brain Affected by Alzheimer's Disease
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Causes

The cause of Alzheimer's is not yet known. Two factors that may play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease are:
  • Plaques—Abnormal deposits of a substance called beta amyloid in different areas of the brain.
  • Neurofibrillary tangles—Twisted fibers (called tau fibers) within the nerve cells.

Risk Factors

People who are over 65 years of age have an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.Other factors that may increase your chance of Alzheimer's disease include:
  • Previous serious, traumatic brain injury
  • Lower educational achievement
  • Obesity in middle-age
  • Down's syndrome
  • Down's syndrome in a first-degree relative
  • Women under age 35 who give birth to a child with Down's syndrome
  • Smoking
  • Family history of Alzheimer's disease
  • Presence of a certain type of protein (APOE-e4)
  • Depression
  • Elevated levels of homocysteine
  • Heart disease
Researchers are studying the following to see if they are related to Alzheimer's disease:
  • Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency in childhood
  • Excess metal in the blood, especially zinc, copper, aluminum, and iron
  • Certain viral infections
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol

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