Dementia is a general term used to describe diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia. All dementias, AD included, are disorders closely associated with aging. As improvements in sanitation, vaccinations, hygiene, antibiotics, housing, and education have given us a better and longer life expectancy, age-associated disorders have grown significantly, making dementia a major healthcare epidemic.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for over 60 percent of dementia cases. The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is aging, with most patients diagnosed at 65 or older; however, Alzheimer’s disease is not just a disease effecting this population. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, patients usually lose their ability to carry on a simple conversation or respond logically to their surroundings. In the later stages of the disease, patients cannot live without the assistance of care givers who provide almost all their physical needs. This makes Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias, an enormous pharmacoeconomic burden in all modern societies.