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What is Alzheimers Disease Alzheimers Disease Fact Sheet Introduction Alzheimers disease AD is the most common cause of dementia in older people A dementia is a medical condition that disrupts the way the brain works AD affects the parts of the brain that control thought memory and language Every day scientists learn more about AD but right now the cause of the disease still is unknown and there is no cure An estimated 4 million people in the United States suffer from AD The disease usually begins after age 65 and risk of AD goes up with age While younger people also may have AD it is much less common About 3 percent of men and women ages 65 to 74 have AD and nearly half of those age 85 and older may have the disease It is important to note however that AD is not a normal part of aging Scientists also have found other changes in the brains of people with AD There is a loss of nerve cells in areas of the brain that are vital to memory and other mental abilities There also are lower levels of chemicals in the brain that carry complex messages back and forth between billions of nerve cells AD may disrupt normal thinking and memory by blocking these messages between nerve cells AD begins slowly At first the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness Such difficulties may be a bother but usually they are not serious enough to cause alarm However as the disease goes on symptoms are more easily noticed and become serious enough to cause people with AD or their family members to seek medical help For example people with AD may forget how to do simple tasks like brushing their teeth or combing their hair They can no longer think clearly and they begin to have problems speaking understanding reading or writing Later on people with AD may become anxious or aggressive or
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