Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is a group of symptoms associated with a decline in the way your brain functions, affecting your memory and the way you behave.
In Alzheimer's disease there is a progressive loss of brain cells.
The exact cause for this is unknown. However, there are a number of things thought to increase the risk of developing the condition, including:
- increasing age
- a family history of the condition
- previous severe head injuries
- lifestyle factors and conditions associated with vascular disease
Read more about the causes of Alzheimer's disease.
Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition, which means that it will continue to get worse as it develops. Early symptoms include:
- minor memory problems
- difficulty saying the right words
These symptoms change as Alzheimer's disease develops, and it may lead to:
- personality changes
- behavioural changes
Read more about the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
There is no single test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. Your GP will ask you questions about any problems you are experiencing and may do some tests to rule out other conditions. If Alzheimer's disease is suspected, you may be referred to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis and organise a treatment plan.
Read more about diagnosing Alzheimer's disease.
Treating Alzheimer's disease
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, although medication is available that can slow down the development of the condition in some people.
As with the treatment of any type of dementia, a care plan should be arranged to provide care and support.
Read more about how Alzheimer's disease is treated.
Who is affected
Alzheimer's disease is most common in people over 65 years of age, and affects slightly more women than men.
Dementia in people under 65 years of age, known as early-onset dementia, is less common. In the UK, around 2% of all dementia cases are early-onset dementia.
The risk increases with age, and people who are over 80 years of age are thought to have a one in six chance of developing the condition.
Preventing Alzheimer's disease
There are several steps you can take which may help delay the onset of dementia, such as:
- quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol
- eating a healthy balanced diet
- having regular health tests as you get older
- staying physically fit and mentally active
Taking these steps also has other health benefits, such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and improving your overall mental health.
Read more information about preventing Alzheimer's disease.