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Alzheimer's Disease FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:What are symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?

A:One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is memory loss.

Other cognitive problems such as difficulty finding the right words or poor judgment may also be present early on. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease may include:
- getting lost
- difficulty with money and paying bills
- repeating questions
- taking more time to complete daily tasks
- losing things or misplacing them
- mood and personality changes

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Q:All cases of Alzheimer's disease worsen over time. True or false?

A:True.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disease, meaning it will worsen over time. The disease often begins slowly and worsens as time passes. Memory loss gets worse, and other cognitive changes become evident. Over time, memory and thinking skills are destroyed and even the ability to complete simple daily tasks disappears.

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Q:Alzheimer's disease is a normal part of aging. True or false?

A:False.

Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging. While symptoms of Alzheimer's usually begin after age 60, younger people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s may also be diagnosed. It is estimated that 5.1 million people in the U.S. may have the disease.

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Q:Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia. True or false?

A:True.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia among the elderly. Dementia is defined by a loss of ability to think, remember, and reason to the point it interferes with a person's daily life. It can range from mild symptoms where the person's function is just slightly affected, to severe where patients must rely on others to care for them.

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Q:Alzheimer's disease can resemble Parkinson's disease. True or false?

A:True.

The early stages of Parkinson's disease can resemble Alzheimer's disease, because dementia is a symptom of both illnesses. Many people who have dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson's disease also have plaques and tangles, brain changes that are linked to Alzheimer's disease.

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Q:Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed by a blood test. True or false?

A:False.

There is no lab test or imaging test that can diagnose Alzheimer's disease. Doctors use a combination of tests to rule out other disorders, as well as tests on memory and problem solving. A person may be diagnosed as having "possible Alzheimer's disease" (symptoms may be due to another cause), "probable Alzheimer's disease" (no other cause for the symptoms can be found), or some other problem.

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Q:A definite diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease may be made only after the death of the patient. True or false?

A:True.

The only way to make a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is through an autopsy after the patient's death. The brain tissue is examined to determine whether the patient had Alzheimer's disease.

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Q:Alzheimer's disease can be cured if detected early. True or false?

A:False.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease; however, early treatment can help improve the quality of life for patients living with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. There are several approaches to treatment that may help, including helping people maintain their mental function, managing the behavioral symptoms, and slowing the progression of the symptoms.

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Q:Alzheimer's disease is considered a terminal illness. True or false?

A:True.

Alzheimer's disease is considered a terminal illness because as it progresses, it affects more areas of the brain until finally it starts to affect the parts that control basic functions such as swallowing and breathing.

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Q:What is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease?

A:The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is age.

Most people are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease after age 60, and the likelihood of developing the disease doubles every five years after age 65. Once a person reaches 85 years of age, the risk for developing Alzheimer's grows to nearly 50 percent. It is unknown why the risk increases so dramatically as we advance in age.

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Q:Alzheimer's disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. True or false?

A:True.

Alzheimer's disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. It's the 6th leading cause of death among adults in the U.S., and the 5th leading cause of death in those age 65 to 85.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated in 2013 that as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older had Alzheimer's disease. They project that by 2050, this number will increase three-fold to nearly 14 million people.

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