Consumer Health: Is the definition of Alzheimer’s disease changing?

Human brain research and memory loss as symbol of alzheimer's concept with missing pieces of the puzzle

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away and die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is a term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily function.

Memory loss is the key symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. An early sign of the disease is difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory impairment persists and worsens, affecting the ability to function at work or at home.

The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association are suggesting changes to the research definition of Alzheimer’s disease. While memory loss, and changes in thinking and cognition, will remain the characteristic symptoms that would lead a health care provider to suspect and diagnose Alzheimer’s disease dementia, there would be a different set of criteria for designing clinical trials and selecting participants. This change may lead to earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, which will hopefully lead to delayed progression and better treatments.

Learn more about this proposed research definition of Alzheimer’s disease from Dr. Jonathan Graff-Radford, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

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