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Memory Loss & Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. It is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. It is not a normal part of aging. Learn more about the disease below.

illustration showing plaques in brain with Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. It is the most common cause of dementia in older adults.

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Scientists don't yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer's disease in most people. The causes probably include a combination of age-related changes in the brain, along with genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

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The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person. Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s disease.

man talking with assistant physician

If you are concerned about memory loss, the first step is to talk with your general practitioner about any changes you have noticed.

doctor explaining diagnosis to patient

If you are concerned about changes in memory and thinking or changes in senses, behavior, mood, or movement that do not seem normal in yourself or a family member, talk with a doctor.

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A diagnosis of Alzheimer's or another dementia can be difficult to hear but arming yourself with accurate information and support helps.

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Alzheimer’s disease is complex, and it is unlikely that any one drug or other intervention will successfully treat it. Current approaches focus on helping people maintain mental function, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow down the symptoms of disease.

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Many conditions and diseases cause dementia. The most common cause of dementia in older people is Alzheimer’s disease. Other causes include different kinds of brain changes that lead to vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal disorders.

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Many people worry about becoming forgetful. They think forgetfulness is the first sign of Alzheimer's disease. But not all people with memory problems have Alzheimer's.

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Some people with memory problems have a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI.

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Families have many things in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. Together, these things may offer clues to diseases, like late- and early-onset Alzheimer’s, that can run in a family.

Pages in the Understanding Memory Loss section