What is Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes large numbers of brain cells to die. This affects a person’s ability to remember things, think clearly and use good judgment. It often begins slowly and can be difficult to detect at early stages. Some people may blame their forgetfulness on old age; however, over time, their memory problems get more serious.

If you or someone you know thinks your forgetfulness is getting in the way of your daily routine, it’s time to see your doctor. Seeing the doctor when you first start having memory problems can help you find out what’s causing your forgetfulness. If you have Alzheimer’s, finding the disease early gives you and your family more time to plan for your treatment and care.

When you tell your doctor or specialist about your memory concerns, they may do the following things:

  • Perform a medical check-up.
  • Take a family history.
  • Ask about your everyday tasks (i.e. driving, food shopping, paying bills).
  • Talk with a friend or family member about your memory problems.
  • Test your memory, counting and language skills.
  • Check your blood and urine.
  • Order brain scans.

These things can help your doctor determine if the problems you’re experiencing are caused by Alzheimer’s disease or one of many other common causes:

  • Bad reaction to medications
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Lack of nutrients from healthy foods
  • Excess of alcohol
  • Blood clots or tumors in the brain
  • Head injuries, such as concussions
  • Kidney, liver or thyroid problems

There are medicines that can treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Most of these medicines work best for people in the early or middle stages of the disease. For some patients, they can keep your memory loss from getting worse for a time. These medicines may have side effects and may not work for everyone. If you are interested in participating in research to improve medications and continue seeking a cure, please visit our research page.

Dementia Risk Factors

Clues of Memory Loss

Age-related Brain Changes

We’ve all forgotten a name, where we put our keys, or if we locked the front door. It’s normal to forget things once in a while. Forgetting how to tip the wait staff, use the telephone, or find your way home may be signs of a more serious memory problem.

It is true that some of us get more forgetful as we age. It may take longer to learn new things, remember certain words, or find our glasses. These changes are often signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems.

If you are concerned about the possibility of serious memory problems, see Clues of Memory Loss.

To keep your memory sharp and your thinking clear, see below for ways to maintain brain health: