Begin Main Content Area

Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders

Dementia is not a specific disease but rather reflects a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities.  Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia.

Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible progressive brain disease that affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and older. It is estimated there are 280,000 Pennsylvanians currently living with the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a type of dementia, Alzheimer's disease is the seventh leading cause of death among all adults.

Although dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging. Not everyone develops dementia as they get older. In rare cases, some people develop dementia in midlife.  Dementia is a serious disorder that interferes with daily life.  Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions and other behaviors and their personality may change.  Aside from Alzheimer's disease, the most common forms of dementia are:

Understanding Different Types of Dementia

Additional Resources:

The PA State Plan for Alzheimer's Disease & Related Disorders developed a strategy to mobilize the commonwealth's response to the anticipated increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders in Pennsylvania.

Signs and Symptoms

Memory problems are often one of the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease or another dementia disorder, but they are not the only one.  Symptoms can vary depending on the type of dementia and what areas of the brain are affected.  Warning signs of dementia may include the following:

  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Changes in the ability to speak, understand, and express thoughts and/or words and to write and read
  • Repeating questions
  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities or events
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia

For additional information and warning signs, please see 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's (cdc.gov).

Early Detection and Diagnosis

The National Institute for Aging has resources available to encourage reaching out to and talking with your doctor if you notice you have more serious memory problems than normal.  This information is available in English and Spanish. The earlier that Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are diagnosed, the sooner you can receive information, care and support. 

Forgetfulness: Normal or Not?

Effective communication with your doctor is important when you are seeking a diagnosis for memory loss.  Ask questions, be prepared to answer questions, and be as honest as possible. For further information, please see the doctor's visit checklist.

A formal diagnosis allows people living with dementia to have access to available symptomatic treatments and interventions, build a care team, participate in support services, and potentially enroll in clinical trials.

Additional Resources:

Risk Reduction Behaviors

A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease.  Many factors affect a person's health.  Some risk factors – genes, age and race – cannot be controlled.  However, others like behavior and lifestyle can be controlled, including diet, sleep and physical activity.

The CDC and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors have prepared actions to take to protect your brain health.

Healthy Aging. Healthy Brain.

There are currently no approaches that have been proven to effectively treat or prevent Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.  However, there may be steps you can take to help reduce your risk.  In general, leading a healthy lifestyle may help address risk factors that have been associated with these diseases:

  • Control high blood pressure
  • Manage blood sugar
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Keep physically active
  • Stay mentally active
  • Stay connected with family and friends
  • Treat hearing problems
  • Take care of your mental and physical health
  • Sleep well
  • Prevent head injury
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Stop tobacco use

For additional information, please see Healthy Brain Aging.

Resources

For more information on Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, including local supports, please see the following:

Disclaimer: These are general recommendations only; clinical decisions should be made by the treating physician based on an individual patient's clinical condition.