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The History of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that destroys memory and eventually deteriorates cognitive function; symptoms of the disease can grow severe enough to inhibit daily functions. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, a general term for a mental decline that interferes with everyday life.

The disease was discovered by and named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906. Dr. Alzheimer noted a difference in the brain tissue of a patient who died from an unexplained mental illness. The patient’s mental illness included several symptoms: memory loss, language problems, and erratic behavior. After further examination of the patient’s brain, multiple unusual clumps, now known as amyloid plaques, were discovered along with tangled fibers, now known as neurofibrillary tangles. Today, these plaques and tangles are a few out of the many major indicators of Alzheimer’s.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the cause of the disease is unknown. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is speculated to be caused by genetic mutation while late-onset Alzheimers’s is speculated to be caused by a series of changes in the brain over time.

There are three Alzheimer's stages: the early, middle, and late stages. An individual would still function normally and independently in the early-stage, but they may have memory lapses and become more forgetful. In the middle-stage, which can last the longest, a person may become more dependent on others as their symptoms may increase. In the late-stage, a person would require around-the-clock caretaking as their symptoms would be the most severe.

In a 2021 report by the Alzheimer’s Association, data shows that Alzheimer’s currently affects more than six million Americans. Out of the six million affected by the disease, 3.8 million are women and 2.4 million are men. 12% of women and 9% of men 65 and older live with the disease. Women seem to battle Alzheimer’s more because women typically live longer than men, and the risk of having the disease increases with age. Globally, more than 50 million people are living with dementia diseases including Alzheimer’s.

After more than 100 years of research, studies continue today. Scientists have gathered significant amounts of information on how Alzheimer’s affects the brain as well as individuals living with the disease.


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