Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease: Aging, Answers and a Way to Support

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Worldwide, 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Alzheimer’s disease does not discriminate amongst those affected, and as we get older, our risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias grows. Learn the facts and get more information about this disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It makes up 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging — it’s a progressive brain disease, meaning it gets worse over time. Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to degenerate. Two abnormal brain structures called plaques and tangles are the main features of Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid plaques are clumps of protein fragments that accumulate outside of cells in the brain. Neurofibrillary tangles are clumps of altered proteins inside cells. These abnormalities cause a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that interfere with normal day-to-day abilities.

What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Problems communicating
  • Difficulty doing ordinary activities
  • Misunderstandings of time or place
  • Feeling confused or frustrated (especially at night)
  • Intense mood swings
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Feeling disoriented or getting lost easily
  • Not able to focus

Risk Factors Related to Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists have identified certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age. After age 65, a person’s risk of developing the disease doubles every five years. Researchers have also learned that people who have a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop it than those who do not. The risk increases if more than one family member has the disease.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Currently, this disease does not have a cure but there are things you can do to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The risks for heart disease are the same risks for Alzheimer’s, so healthy monitoring and proper care for high blood pressure and cholesterol, along with regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet are essential.

A Place to Seek Care

Emory’s Integrated Memory Care Clinic (IMCC) is a nationally recognized patient-centered medical home that provides individualized primary care for those who are living with dementia. It is here that answers can be provided for questions from loved ones, family members and caregivers. Self-guided education for dementia and other brain-related diseases is highly encouraged. We understand it can often be more difficult to be sure you are getting the necessary information you need on your own, so our dedicated team is readily available to answer questions and provide the level of care you deserve and have come to expect from Emory.

Take Action and Show Your Support

During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks people around the world to “go purple.” Find a way to join in on the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Here are a few options:

  • Wear your purple during June to show support.
  • Talk about it! Raise brain health awareness by bringing it into conversation.
  • Donate to Alzheimer’s research.
  • Volunteer for a clinical trial.

Emory researchers work diligently to uncover the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and to improve treatment options by leading clinical trials. Thanks to volunteers from our community, both with and without Alzheimer’s disease, we’re making headway and accelerating Emory’s efforts to find a cure.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease at the Emory Brain Health Center or call 404-778-7777.

More about the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association offers information about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, including Lewy body and vascular dementias. You’ll find information on everything from legislation related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to local resources, such as caregiver training and support groups, programs such as SafeReturn®, and stage-specific information.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website

Emory Brain Health Center

The Emory Brain Health Center uniquely integrates neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, rehabilitation medicine, and sleep medicine and transforms patient-centered care for brain and spinal cord conditions through research and discovery. Bringing these specialties together allows more than 400 researchers and clinicians from different areas to collaborate to predict, prevent, treat or cure devastating diseases and disorders of the brain more rapidly. These collaborations are demonstrated in numerous centers and programs across the Brain Health Center, including the Epilepsy Center, Pituitary Center, Stroke Center, Treatment-Resistant Depression Program, and Veterans Program.

Emory’s multidisciplinary approach is transforming the world’s understanding of the vast frontiers of the brain, harnessing imagination and discovery to address 21st century challenges.

Learn more about comprehensive, diagnostic and innovative treatment options at the Emory Brain Health Center.