Isn't Alzheimer's just part of getting old?

Posted: Jul. 21, 2008

No, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process.

All parts of our bodies change as we age and this includes the brain. As people get older, they notice slowed thinking and changes in memory. However, the changes in memory associated with Alzheimer’s are not part of normal aging. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, irreversible and fatal brain disease.

 

Over time, it causes nerve cells in the brain to shrink and die. The disease is divided into three stages: mild, moderate and severe. Early symptoms involve memory loss and cognitive deficits and the disease progresses to major personality changes and eventual loss of bodily functions. It is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.

Alzheimer ’s disease is a type of dementia and in fact is the most common cause of dementia, but not all dementia is Alzheimer’s. Dementia is not a disease itself, but a group of symptoms that characterize diseases and conditions. It is commonly defined as a decline in intellectual functioning that is severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform routine activities and social functioning. In addition to Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia include Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), Vascular Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Huntington’s disease.

Resources for more information:
1. Watch a quick video: What is Alzheimer’s Disease?   www.aboutalz.org.
2. For interesting articles, perform an Internet search of the phrase “Alzheimer’s vs. Normal Aging”.
3. For patient and caregiver information and services, National Institute on Aging funds Alzheimer’s Disease Centers at major medical institutions across the country. You can find one by visiting
www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimer’s/ResearchInformation