The Many Faces of Dementia: Research |

The Many Faces of Dementia: Research

Submitted to The Union

Editors Note: This is the second in a series of four articles designed for those who want a better and more in depth understanding of Alzheimer's disease. It has been reprinted with permission from Alzheimer's Foundation of America – Contact the 24 hour helpline at 866- AFA-8484.

Research (what we know)

• The causes of Alzheimer's disease are still unknown.

• Current research indicates that Alzheimer's disease may be triggered by a multitude of factors, including age, genetic makeup, oxidative damage to neurons from the overproduction of toxic free radicals, serious head injuries, brain inflammation, and environmental factors.

• Age is the most important known risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.

• There are two types of the disease: sporadic Alzheimer's disease and familial Alzheimer's disease. Unlike sporadic Alzheimer's disease, familial Alzheimer's follows an obvious inheritance pattern. Less than 10 percent of Alzheimer's disease cases are familial. This rare form of Alzheimer's disease usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 60.

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• On the genetic front, scientists have zeroed in on three mutations on chromosomes 1, 14 and 21 that cause early-onset Alzheimer's disease, which generally affects those aged 30 to 60.

• Other genes boost susceptibility, but do not signal that a person will definitely develop the disease. Multiple research studies indicate that inheritance of a specific one of the three forms, or alleles, of the Apo lipoprotein E (apoE) gene on chromosome 19 heightens the risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease. Those who carry one copy of the allele e4 face a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, and those with two copies of e4 confront the greatest risk. Another relatively rare apoE allele, e2, appears linked to a lower risk of the disease.

• Several other studies suggest that a gene or genes on chromosome 10 may also boost an individual's risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease.


• Alzheimer's disease currently strikes an estimated 4.2 million to 5.8 million Americans.

• It is projected that the number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease could more than triple to 16 million by mid-century.

• An estimated one in 10 persons over age 65 and nearly half of those 85 or older have Alzheimer's disease.

• It is estimated that one to four family members act as caregivers for each individual with Alzheimer's disease.

• Although Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging, the risk of developing the illness rises with age. Current research from the National Institute on Aging indicates that the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease doubles every five years beyond age 65.

• As our population ages, the disease impacts a greater percentage of Americans. The numbers of people age 65 and older will more than double between 2000 and 2030 to 70.3 million or 20 percent of the U.S. population; likewise, those 85 and older will rise two-fold, to 8.9 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Warning signs

• Trouble with new memories

• Seeing or hearing things

• Relying on memory helpers

• Trouble finding words

• Struggling to complete familiar actions

•  Misplacing familiar objects

• Onset of new depression or irritability

• Making bad decisions

• Personality changes

• Loss of interest in responsibilities

• Confusion about time, place or people

• Expressing false beliefs

Tor Eckert has been involved with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias for nearly eight years including owning an Alzheimer's Care Home. He was designated as a "healthcare professional" by the AFA in 2008. He has pro-bono public forums and programs – The Many Faces of Dementia. For more information, please contact him at

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