Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia which results in a loss of memory (especially short term), thinking and judgment, along with aberrant behavior. It eventually causes complete debilitation and total dependence on a care giver. About five and a half million Americans have the disease – about one in eight persons over the age of 65. Almost half of those over 85 are afflicted. There are two types, the first being early onset that can begin before the age of 60 and is thought to be inherited, as several associated genes have been identified. The second type appears in older age groups and is slowly progressive, but is not part of normal aging. There are physical changes found in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims including tangling of the brain’s neurons, failure of some neurotransmission and abnormal deposits of a protein called amyloid.
Although there are neuropsychological tests that seem to predict early onset, there is no known cure nor means of prevention. Some believe that mental and physical exercise can be beneficial and there are five FDA approved drugs that are thought to help, but are effective for only a year or less: Aricept, Razadyne, Namenda, Exelon and Cognex. While most of the major drug companies are working on the problem, over 1000 drug trials have failed to provide a definitive answer so far.