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URMC / Alzheimers Care / Learn / About Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease Education

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia.  Dementia is a word used to describe changes in memory and thinking that disrupt a person’s ability to perform daily tasks.  There are many forms of dementia, some of which are Parkinson’s dementia, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.

What causes Alzheimer’s Disease?

Much is still unknown about the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.  A leading theory is that a certain protein in the brain, Amyloid-beta, begins to build-up and cause damage to brain cells, although experts still do not know the cause of these changes.

How common is Alzheimer’s Disease?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 5.4 million people in the United States are affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.  By 2050, this number is predicted to reach 13.8 million1.

Who gets Alzheimer’s Disease?

The single biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease is age followed by family history as the next biggest risk factor.  This suggests the presence of a genetic link. Researchers have identified certain genes that are associated with an increase in the risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease.  In addition to age and family history, certain lifestyles have also been associated with an increased risk.

What is considered "normal aging?"

"Normal aging" is used to describe the changes in memory and thinking that occur as we age.  These changes are typically not caused by an underlying disease process, nor do they typically interfere with daily living.  Examples of normal aging are occasionally misplacing items, taking longer to remember names, and sometimes having difficulty finding the right word.

What are the signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?

There are several warning signs that indicate changes could be associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.  It is important to remember that there may be several different causes of these signs and symptoms, and that some causes can be treated.  It is important to first seek medical attention if you notice these changes in yourself or a loved one.

Signs that suggest a problem may exist include memory problems that disrupt day-to-day life, difficulty solving problems, confusion about date/time/place, difficulty using words, trouble with vision or judging distances, difficulty driving, getting lost in familiar places, changes in mood or personality, and  difficulty making decisions.



1. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2017) Alzheimer’s disease: Promoting health and independence for an aging population. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.