Neurosurgery and Brain Health Recognizing the Signs of Alzheimer’s By Aging Institute, November 24, 2014 Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia, is present in 5 to 10 percent of seniors today. It is a progressive disease that causes brain cells to deteriorate and die, leaving the affected person unable to perform daily tasks or care for themselves in general. Much research is being done in what causes Alzheimer’s disease and how it can be cured or managed. Studies show that the greatest risk factor for developing the disease is age. People over age 65 have a significantly higher chance of developing all forms of dementia than their younger peers. Some studies show a family history of the disease may increase your risk for certain forms of the illness. While there are treatments available to help improve symptoms and enhance quality of life in some people, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. Early detection is important because the available treatments tend to be more effective in the early stages of the disease. However, it can be difficult to diagnose, as the early-stage symptoms often mimic symptoms of other common illnesses, or normal changes in brain function with aging. If your loved one is experiencing the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s important to take him or her to a physician for evaluation. While dementia can typically be detected by physicians, it may be difficult to secure a sound diagnosis for Alzheimer’s. Physical, neurological, and mental evaluations are needed to properly determine if a person has the disease. However, the development of recent diagnostic tests can improve the accuracy of diagnosing Alzheimer’s versus another type of dementia. While no cure currently exists for Alzheimer’s, research is ongoing at UPMC and elsewhere to figure out better ways to treat and potentially cure people with the disease. For more information on this topic, visit the University of Pittsburgh’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center or The Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh.