Alzheimer's disease and related dementias
What is dementia?
Dementia describes a variety of diseases and conditions that damage brain cells and impair brain function, which includes Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 6-80% of cases. Alzheimer's disease is an age-related brain disorder that gradually destroy's a person's ability to remember, think, learn, and carry out everyday tasks.
Common types of dementia:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Vascular dementia
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
- Mixed dementia
- Parkinson's disease dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Huntington's disease
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Our brain health and thinking and reasoning abilities, called cognition, may decline as we get older. Changes are gradual; they vary from no change to small changes (mild cognitive impairment) or severe changes (dementia).
Most agree that the components of good brain health include:
- Ability to plan and carry out tasks
- Remembered skills
- The ability to live a purposeful life
Some people never develop a serious decline in cognitive function and not all who develop mild cognitive impairment develop dementia. Talk to a health care professional about concerns regarding changes in memory, thinking or reasoning.
Causes of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not currently known. Research suggests a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors may contribute and affect each individual differently. The most recognized risk factor for developing cognitive decline and dementia is advancing age.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years after age 65. The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia increases dramatically after age 80.
Who has Alzheimer's disease and related dementias?
Experts estimate more than 5.5 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease. More than 90% of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia cases occur in people age sixty and older. A small number of people, age 30 to 60 years, develop “early-onset” Alzheimer’s disease. This “early-onset” form of the disease often runs in families.
In American communities, only about half of the people who would meet the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias have been diagnosed. In addition, there is a higher incidence of Alzheimer's disease and dementia among Black and Hispanic people compared to non-Hispanic whites.
The Alzheimer's Association estimates 14 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease by 2050, with many more affected by other forms of dementia.
Prevention and treatment
Currently there are no medications or other interventions that definitively prevent, treat or cure these conditions and medical professionals are unable to diagnose the disease before symptoms occur.
Scientists are evaluating whether strategies like exercise, changes in food habits, maintaining relationships with friends and family, or "brain games" can prevent or slow Alzheimer’s disease or related conditions. These activities also could improve quality of life for the person with memory loss and the care partner. The medical field is still learning about this disease, and health professionals' knowledge and understanding continues to grow as research, technology, and clinical practices evolve.
For more information
- The Minnesota Board on Aging is the state aging agency for Minnesota. Find resources for caregivers and older adults, including information on housing, advance care planning, insurance, prescription help and other social services related to aging across the state.
- The 2019 Alzheimer's Disease Working Group Legislative Report (PDF) outlines the findings and recommendations of the Alzheimer's Disease Working Group, which is convened by the Minnesota Board on Aging to examine the needs of people with Alzheimer's disease, the services available to meet those needs, and the capacity of the state and health care providers to meet current and future challenges.
- ACT on Alzheimer's is a statewide collaboration of community members, health care providers, government officials, caregivers, people with Alzheimer’s, academics and businesses in Minnesota. They created an Alzheimer's Health Equity Call to Action to learn more about disparities in dementia care.
- Alzheimer's Association - Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter is the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and can help connect people with education programs, support groups, advocacy opportunities and care resources.
- The Alzheimer's Association Public Health Center of Excellence (PHCOE) on Dementia Risk Reduction collaborates with partners to help reduce the risks of dementia. They also help public health agencies share best practices.
- The Healthy Brain Initiative (HBI) State and Local Partnerships to Address Dementia: The 2018-2023 Road Map (PDF) charts a course for state and local public health agencies and their partners. The Road Map prepares all communities to act quickly and strategically by stimulating changes in policies, systems, and environments.
- Live Well at Home - Individuals can complete a quiz and step-by-step guide to develop a housing plan best-suited to their needs. This includes cost estimates and comparisons for the services, programs, and resources needed for that person to continue living at home.
- The Minnesota Department of Health received the CDC BOLD Grant to implement Alzheimer's and Related Dementias (ADRD) activities in line with the recommendations in the 2019 Alzheimer's Disease Working Group Legislative Report and the Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map actions.
- The University of Minnesota Center for Health Aging and Innovation (CHAI) focuses on dementia care services and supports. The University of Minnesota also has a CDC BOLD Public Health Center of Excellence on Dementia Caregiving.