This post was last updated on November 1, 2016\nAlzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world. It affects more than five million older adults in America.\nThere is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, and prevention and treatment strategies are still in development and require further research.\nAlzheimer’s disease is the combination of dementia and abnormal structures found within the brain.\nEarly stages of the disease impair someone’s ability to learn, remember, and plan tasks.\nPeople with late-stage Alzheimer’s have trouble with basic actions such as:\n\nWalking\nDressing\nEating\n\nAlzheimer’s dementia occurs due to the significant presence of two abnormal structures in the brain:\n\nBeta amyloid plaque\n\nNeurofibrillary tangles\n\n\nWhat Are Plaque and Tangles in the Brain?\nMost people think of tangles as something you brush out of your hair in the morning. And, isn’t plaque what a dentist scrapes off your teeth? Unfortunately, tangles and plaque in the brain aren’t so easily remedied.\nFor a complete overview of what happens to the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient, watch the video, “Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mysteries of Alzheimer’s Disease,” posted at UPMC’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.\nIf you look at a brain with Alzheimer’s disease using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), you will see sections of the brain that have atrophied, most notably in the mesial temporal lobe.\nThe precise pathological process that leads to Alzheimer’s disease is unknown.\nOne theory is that beta amyloid plaque \u2013 found outside of the cell\u2014 and neurofibrillary tangles \u2013 the clumping of deposits inside of the cell \u2013 cause a cascade of:\n\nInflammation\nSynaptic dysfunction and loss\nCell death\n\nResearchers believe various glial cells in the brain surround amyloid plaques and neurons carrying neurofibrillary tangles, and the spreading of neurofibrillary tangles leads to Alzheimer’s dementia.\nIs Alzheimer’s Genetic?\nA complex interaction of risk factors is the cause of most Alzheimer’s cases.\nThese risks include:\n\nAge\nFamily history\nEnvironmental and lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and smoking\n\nAbout one percent of all cases are the result of particular genes. People with a genetic code for Alzheimer’s develop the disease early, in their 30s and 40s.\nHow Do You Care For Alzheimer’s Disease?\nAlzheimer’s often complicates care-giving because it might be just one health issue among others. Your loved one with Alzheimer’s may also need care for three or four other health problems.\nDoctors at University of Pittsburgh’s Division of Geriatric Medicine, designated a National Center of Excellence by the John Hartford Foundation, recognize the multi-layered response necessary for developing individualized treatment.\nThe University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC) is one of the nation’s leading research centers that specializes in diagnosing and researching Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders such as dementia. The center is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Recent studies performed include evaluating the effectiveness of the newest drugs to treat Alzheimer’s.