Alzheimer's Disease - Description

A person with AD usually has a gradual decline in mental functions. The first stages include a slight loss in memory, such as the inability to remember the names of people or objects. As the disease develops, a person loses the ability to carry out familiar tasks, to reason, and to exercise judgment. Moods, personality, and ability to communicate may also be affected.

People with AD typically die within eight years of their diagnosis. Some individuals may die within a year of diagnosis, others may live as long as twenty years. AD is the fourth leading cause of death among adults in the United States after heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Between two and four million Americans have AD. That number is expected to reach fourteen million by the middle of the twenty-first century. The reason for this growth is that the U.S. population as a whole is aging (there are more older people than younger people).

One form of AD, called early-onset AD, affects people in their forties and fifties. But the majority of AD patients are older than sixty-five. About 3 percent of those between ages sixty-five and seventy-four have the disease compared to 19 percent of those between ages seventy-five and eighty-four, and 47 percent of those over the age of eighty-four.

Impaired intellectual function that interferes with normal social and work activities.
Donepezil hydrochloride (Aricept):
A drug approved for use with AD patients that increases brain activity.
An herb obtained from the ginkgo tree, thought by some alternative practitioners to be helpful in treating AD patients.
Neurofibrillary tangle:
Twisted masses that develop inside brain cells of people with AD.
Senile plaque:
Deposits that collect inside the brain cells of people with AD.
Tacrine (Cognex):
A drug that may help improve memory in people with mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer's disease.

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