Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and fatal disease in which nerve cells in the brain degenerate and brain matter shrinks, resulting in impaired thinking, behavior and memory.
Alzheimer’s is primarily a disease of aging, although it can occur in younger adults. One in 10 people over the age of 65 — and nearly half of all people over 85 — have Alzheimer’s. Roughly 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is increasing, perhaps because of increased awareness of its symptoms or because people are living longer.
Memory loss is the first and primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. In the disease’s early stages, the patient becomes forgetful — misplacing car keys, forgetting to take medications, not remembering how to drive to familiar places. As the disease progresses, patients often cannot remember what they did earlier in the day, or even five minutes before. In later stages, the patient does not recognize loved ones, and eventually dies of the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by an abnormal accumulation of proteins in the brain that lead to cell death. The greatest risk factors for developing the disease are aging and genetics. People with a strong family history of the disease, or the presence of the genetic marker APOE -4, are much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people without these risks.
In addition to family history, other risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include:
• Certain genes
• High blood pressure
• High blood cholesterol
• Head trauma
• Poor diet (low in antioxidents)
The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health brings together skilled, knowledgeable specialists to treat patients who are experiencing cognitive disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Jagan Pillai, MD, PhD, recently joined Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, specializing in Cognitive and Geriatric neurology. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Kerala and later trained in neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He further specialized in cognitive and geriatric neurology at the University of California San Diego before joining Cleveland Clinic. His specialty interests include cognitive changes arising from medical illness including multiple varieties of dementia, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
To make an appointment with Dr. Pillai or any other staff in the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, please call 866.588.2264. For more information, please visit our website: clevelandclinic.org/brainhealth
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