Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder named after German physician Alois Alzheimer, who initially described it in 1906. AD is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that results in impaired mental functions (thinking, retaining information, and reasoning) that interferes with a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
Currently, 2.4 to 4.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. AD is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that currently has no cure. We do not know what causes AD but damage can occur in the brain ten to twenty years before symptoms occur. Abnormalities called beta amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form, and as they increase, they injure and eventually kill healthy neurons.
Neurons effected by Alzheimer’s Disease can no longer function and communicate with each other. When this process affects memory centers in the brain like the hippocampus, the formation of memories is compromised. As the death toll of neurons increases, the corresponding regions in the brain start to shrink. Towards the final stage of AD, widespread significant brain damage and atrophy generally occurs. At this stage, AD patients are completely dependent on others for their care.