Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, which is the catch-all term for memory loss and other declines in cognitive skills that interfere with day-to-day life. Though one in nine people over 65 has AD, it's not a normal part of aging. Scientists know very little about what causes it: old age is a risk factor, but up to 5% of people get it as early as age 40. We know that brains with AD show a buildup of plaques and "tangles," but we don't know whether they cause the disease or it's the other way around. We also know that it gets worse over time — from the point that symptoms become noticeable, most people with AD live an average of only eight years — but we don't know what we can do to cure it or even slow its progression. What's clear is that it's a major health problem. Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and it's the only one in the top 10 that has no known prevention or treatment. So what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones? Though there's no surefire way to avoid it, research has shown that activities such as exercise, socializing with friends, and intellectual activities like learning a second language or playing an instrument are associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer's disease.
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Key Facts In This Video
Dementia involves a decline in cognitive skills used to perform everyday activities. 60-80% of dementia cases are Alzheimer's disease. 02:22
Here's how chromosome 21 may play a role. 09:19
Physical activity, a heart-healthy diet, learning a second language, being social, protecting your head, and intellectual activities all may lower your risk for AD. 12:19
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