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What Is The Prognosis Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Who Has Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease Prognosis
  • In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimers disease.1
  • Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
  • The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
  • This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
  • Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age.

What Happens If A Doctor Thinks It’s Alzheimer’s Disease

If a primary care doctor suspects mild cognitive impairment or possible Alzheimers, he or she may refer the patient to a specialist who can provide a detailed diagnosis or further assessment. Specialists include:

  • Geriatricians, who manage health care in older adults and know how the body changes as it ages and whether symptoms indicate a serious problem
  • Geriatric psychiatrists, who specialize in the mental and emotional problems of older adults and can assess memory and thinking problems
  • Neurologists, who specialize in abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system and can conduct and review brain scans
  • Neuropsychologists, who can conduct tests of memory and thinking

Memory clinics and centers, including Alzheimers Disease Research Centers, offer teams of specialists who work together to diagnose the problem. Tests often are done at the clinic or center, which can speed up diagnosis.

What Affects The Speed Of Progression

The speed at which dementia progresses varies a lot from person to person because of factors such as:

  • the type of dementia for example, Alzheimers disease tends to progress more slowly than the other types
  • a persons age for example, Alzheimers disease generally progresses more slowly in older people than in younger people
  • other long-term health problems dementia tends to progress more quickly if the person is living with other conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, particularly if these are not well managed
  • delirium a medical condition that starts suddenly .

There is no way to be sure how quickly a persons dementia will progress. Some people with dementia will need support very soon after their diagnosis. In contrast, others will stay independent for several years.

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What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is a condition in which people have more memory problems than normal for their age but are still able to carry out their normal daily activities. A doctor can do thinking, memory, and language tests to see if a person has MCI. People with MCI are at a greater risk for developing Alzheimers disease, so its important to see a doctor or specialist regularly if you have this condition.

Prognosis For Alzheimers Disease


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Alzheimers is a neurodegenerative disease and therefore the symptoms progressively worsen, gradually leading to a greater degree of dependence.

The disease progresses through different stages:

  • Mild cognitive impairment. Throughout this stage the patient suffers memory problems but can maintain their independence and does not need help from others.
  • Dementia. This is when the patient now finds it hard to carry out activities alone. It could be mild dementia if they only have problems with complicated tasks or severe dementia if they can no longer perform any tasks and have lost the capacity to speak and walk.

On average, each stage lasts for 2-3 years, but some people may remain in the early stages for several years while others may experience a much quicker evolution. People who develop Alzheimers live for an average of between 8 and 10 years after the diagnosis however, some may live with the disease for up to 20 years depending on different factors.

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What Causes Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimers disease is caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in the brain. The build-up of these proteins called amyloid protein and tau protein leads to cell death.

The human brain contains over 100 billion nerve cells as well as other cells. The nerve cells work together to fulfill all the communications needed to perform such functions as thinking, learning, remembering, and planning. Scientists believe that amyloid protein builds up in the brain cells, forming larger masses called plaques. Twisted fibers of another protein called tau form into tangles. These plaques and tangles block the communication between nerve cells, which prevents them from carrying out their processes. The slow and ongoing death of the nerve cells, starting in one area of the brain then spreading to other areas, results in the symptoms seen in patients with Alzheimers disease.

How Is Alzheimers Diagnosed And Treated

Doctors may ask questions about health, conduct cognitive tests, and carry out standard medical tests to determine whether to diagnose a person with Alzheimers disease. If a doctor thinks a person may have Alzheimers, they may refer the person to a specialist, such as a neurologist, for further assessment. Specialists may conduct additional tests, such as brain scans or lab tests of spinal fluid, to help make a diagnosis. These tests measure signs of the disease, such as changes in brain size or levels of certain proteins.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimers, though there are several medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can help manage some symptoms of the disease along with coping strategies to manage behavioral symptoms. In 2021, FDA provided accelerated approval for a new medication, aducanumab, that targets the protein beta-amyloid, which accumulates abnormally in the brains of people with Alzheimers. The new medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits, but has not yet been shown to affect clinical symptoms or outcomes, such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia.

Most medicines work best for people in the early or middle stages of Alzheimers. Researchers are exploring other drug therapies and nondrug interventions to delay or prevent the disease as well as treat its symptoms.

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Key Points About Early

  • Alzheimer disease commonly affects older people, but early-onset Alzheimer disease can affect people in their 30s or 40s.

  • It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.

  • Although there is no known cure, early diagnosis and treatment can lead to better quality of life.

  • Stay healthy with a good diet and regular exercise.

  • Avoid alcohol and other substances that may affect memory, thinking, and behavior.

Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Scripps Health: What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Some people have a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. It can be an early sign of Alzheimers. But, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimers disease. People with MCI can still take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI memory problems may include:

  • Losing things often
  • Forgetting to go to events or appointments
  • Having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.

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Prognosis For Alzheimer’s Patients

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease the disease naturally progresses and worsens over time. People with the disease can survive for many years, however. While most people with Alzheimer’s die within 8 to 10 years, some live as long as 25 years.

Some people decline steadily during their disease, while others reach major plateaus where their symptoms advance quite slowly. Men and people with a long-standing history of high blood pressure are more likely to decline rapidly. Additionally, the older a person with Alzheimer’s disease becomes, the more likely he or she is to decline rapidly.

An accurate, early diagnosis gives affected individuals a greater chance of benefiting from existing treatments.

What Is The Burden Of Alzheimers Disease In The United States

  • Alzheimers disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.2
  • The 6th leading cause of death among US adults.
  • The 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older.3

In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimers disease.1 This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1

In 2010, the costs of treating Alzheimers disease were projected to fall between $159 and $215 billion.4 By 2040, these costs are projected to jump to between $379 and more than $500 billion annually.4

Death rates for Alzheimers disease are increasing, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates that are on the decline.5 Dementia, including Alzheimers disease, has been shown to be under-reported in death certificates and therefore the proportion of older people who die from Alzheimers may be considerably higher.6


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Stage : Mild Dementia

The mild dementia stage is the point at which doctors typically diagnose Alzheimers disease. If people use a three-stage description of Alzheimers disease, this will be the early stage.

Problems with memory and thinking may become more noticeable to friends and family and also begin to affect daily life.

Symptoms of mild dementia due to Alzheimers disease include:

  • having difficulty remembering newly learned information
  • asking the same question repeatedly
  • having trouble solving problems and completing tasks
  • exhibiting reduced motivation to complete tasks
  • experiencing a lapse in judgment
  • becoming withdrawn or uncharacteristically irritable or angry
  • having difficulty finding the correct words to describe an object or idea
  • getting lost or misplacing items

Late Stages Of Alzheimers Disease Symptoms

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The needs of the person with Alzheimers become much more demanding as the disease progresses. In the late stages of Alzheimers, the person with the disease loses the ability to respond appropriately and is unable to converse with others. They will also develop an inability to control movements like sitting, standing and walking.

Here are some other common symptoms of the disease that can occur:

  • Catches colds and infections easily
  • Day/night reversal of sleep pattern
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Difficulty using the toilet independently
  • Eventually requires help with activities of daily living, 24 hours per day
  • Eventually unable to walk
  • Hoarding, rummaging
  • Inability to sit and eventually to swallow
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of awareness of surroundings
  • Needs help walking
  • Needs progressively more help with personal care
  • Personality changes such as aggression, anxiety, hostility, irritability or uncooperativeness
  • Repetitive questioning
  • Sundowners
  • Verbally aggressive or demanding behavior
  • Wandering

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How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Progress

The rate of progression of the disease varies from person to person.

However, the disease does lead eventually to complete dependence and finally death, usually from another illness such as pneumonia. A person may live from three to twenty years with Alzheimer’s disease, with the average being seven to ten years.

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There is a lot of talk about the emotional pain patients and caregivers suffer when a loved one loses memories to Alzheimers. But what about the other symptoms? Here are tips from a Johns Hopkins expert on what to watch for and how to manage.

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Stage : Normal Outward Behavior

Alzheimer├ós disease usually starts silently, with brain changes that begin years before anyone notices a problem. When your loved one is in this early phase, they won’t have any symptoms that you can spot. Only a PET scan, an imaging test that shows how the brain is working, can reveal whether they have Alzheimer’s.

As they move into the next six stages, your friend or relative with Alzheimer’s will see more and more changes in their thinking and reasoning.

Life Expectancy After An Alzheimers Disease Diagnosis

Delivering an Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis

The most honest answer to Genevieves question may be, It depends. After a diagnosis of Alzheimers disease or another dementia, people can live for months to years, depending on individual circumstances. Its been shown that factors like age, race, genetics, health background, socioeconomic status, and education influence the life expectancy of large numbers of people with Alzheimers. However, every individuals disease is different, and may not follow the average course.

Dementia is one of the top causes of death in the United States, and the events leading to death in a person with dementia such as complications related to an infection after aspiration, or falling are not always directly linked to the disease. In order to provide a more useful answer, I want to write about life expectancy in general and then Ill list some of the factors that help us think about survival. Again, while these may influence life expectancy with Alzheimer’s in general, individuals sometimes depart from statistics and have a different disease course.

For anyone with dementia, there is a period of survival with the disease, and this can be a challenging and complicated time for caregivers, a time during which family members need to work together, plan for the future, and cope with an increasingly difficult set of circumstances.

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Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented

As the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not clear, there’s no known way to prevent the condition.

But there are things you can do that may reduce your risk or delay the onset of dementia, such as:

These measures have other health benefits, such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and improving your overall mental health.

Read more about preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

How Is Alzheimers Treated

There is currently no cure for Alzheimers – but this doesnt mean that there is no hope for patients.

There is a lot that can be done to help people with the condition live full and long lives.

Drug treatments exist that can help ease some of the symptoms as well as slowing their progression.

And there are also many ways people can be helped to maintain their independence, and help them cope with their memory issues.

Doctors advise that those with Alzheimers should try to continue pursuing the activities and hobbies that they love and enjoy.

Exercising the mind by regularly by doing puzzles and other brain training drills can also make a difference.

Earlier this month it was revealed that cheap blood pressure pills prescribed on the NHS could treat dementia.

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Stage : Very Mild Decline

The senior may notice minor memory problems or lose things around the house, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age-related memory loss. The person will still do well on memory tests and the disease is unlikely to be detected by loved ones or physicians.

What Are The Symptoms Of Early


For most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.

Early symptoms:

  • Withdrawal from work and social situations

  • Changes in mood and personality

Later symptoms:

  • Severe mood swings and behavior changes

  • Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events

  • Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers

  • Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking

  • Severe memory loss

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How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated

Medical management can improve quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimers disease and for their caregivers. There is currently no known cure for Alzheimers disease. Treatment addresses several areas:

  • Helping people maintain brain health.
  • Managing behavioral symptoms.
  • Slowing or delaying symptoms of the disease.

How Do The Causes Of Dementia Vary By Type

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimers disease, which accounts for up to 70 percent of cases, according to the National Institutes of Health . While some risk factors increase a persons chance of developing Alzheimers disease including age, family history, and heredity according to the NIH, there is no known cause for Alzheimers disease. Other causes of dementia include a series of small strokes or a severe head injury in which brain tissue dies from lack of oxygen.

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Stage : Very Mild Changes

You still might not notice anything amiss in your loved one’s behavior, but they may be picking up on small differences, things that even a doctor doesn’t catch. This could include forgetting words or misplacing objects.

At this stage, subtle symptoms of Alzheimer’s don’t interfere with their ability to work or live independently.

Keep in mind that these symptoms might not be Alzheimer’s at all, but simply normal changes from aging.

Behavioral And Cognitive Symptoms Of Dementia

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

Behavioral Symptoms

Michelle Niedens, L.S.C.S.W., in The Neuropsychiatric Symptoms of Alzheimers, states that 80% of individuals with dementia will experience neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Personality changes such as anxiety, depression or irritability are common in the early stages of the disease. Later, agitation, physical or verbal outbursts, pacing and restlessness are more common.

Behavioral symptoms have been identified as the most challenging and distressing for caregivers and family members. They are oftentimes the determining factor in deciding to move a family member with Alzheimers into a structured living environment.

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms start out mild in the early stages of Alzheimers and gradually worsen as each stage progresses. In the late stages of Alzheimers, the person with the disease is no longer able to form new memories or access old ones. Language abilities become worse until the person is no longer able to communicate. Judgment and reasoning skills continue to diminish and eventually, the person with dementia loses the ability to reason altogether.

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What Is The Life Expectancy Of Someone With Dementia

Many types of dementia cause a gradual decline in mental and physical abilities. As the disorder progresses, the persons ability to carry on daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating may be impaired. This can add to stress in personal relationships and make it difficult for caregivers to provide care for them over time.

People with Alzheimers disease tend to decline gradually over a period of eight to 10 years, but the memory and thinking problems can progress faster in some cases. Some people with Alzheimers disease decline fairly quickly over just one or two years. Others may live 10 years or more.

As dementia progresses, people often need assistance performing daily tasks such as getting dressed and doing household chores. Memory problems often make it hard for them to follow directions or learn something new.

Some people with dementia may also have behavior problems, including unusual confusion, depression, delusions, hallucinations, restlessness, and agitation.


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