National Institute on Aging (February 17, 2012): 2010 Progress Report on Alzheimer's Disease: A Deeper Understanding

Publication Date: 
Fri, 02/17/2012

INTRODUCTION

Alzheimer's disease is an age-related brain disorder that gradually destroys a person's ability to remember, think, learn, and carry out even the simplest of tasks. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia, a broad term for diseases and conditions that damage brain cells and, over time, impair brain function. Alzheimer's is associated with the breakdown of connections between brain cells, or neurons, and their eventual death.

Typically diagnosed in people age 60 and older, in rare caes the disease can occur in people in their 30s and 40s. The first clinical signs of Alzheimer's disease include memory loss or other cognitive problems, such as trouble with language or decision making. As cognition continues to decline, people may also experience disturbing changes in personality and behavior. In the final stage of Alzheimer's dementia, people lose the ability to recognize family and friends and become totally dependent on others for their daily care. Ultimately, Alzheimer's is a terminal illness.

Research shows that Alzheimer's causes changes in the brain years and even decades before the first symptoms appear, so even those who seem free of the disease today may be at risk. The fight against Alzheimer's is urgent because, without a cure or more effective treatment, it will grow increasingly prevalent as the population ages. This report from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), focuses on the scientists waging that fight, who work each day toward better treatments and, ultimately, prevention of Alzheimer's disease. Their efforts are dedicated to a future free of this devastating disorder. This report details some of their progress toward that goal.

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