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Contact Info

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthy Aging Program
4770 Buford Highway, N.E., Mailstop K-45
Atlanta, GA 30341-3717

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We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment, or other medical advice.


Alzheimer's Disease

A man and a woman standing.  The middle-aged man is in the foreground, looking into camera.  The woman is standing behind him with her hands on his shoulder, smiling and also looking into the camera. What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia among older adults. Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language and can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Although scientists are learning more every day, right now, they still do not know what causes Alzheimer’s disease.

Who has Alzheimer’s Disease?
As many as 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. While younger people may get Alzheimer’s disease, it is much less common. The disease usually begins after age 60, and risk goes up with age. About 5 percent of men and women ages 65 to 74 have Alzheimer’s disease, and nearly half of those age 85 and older may have the disease. It is important to note, however, that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.

A middle-aged man and woman sitting.  Both are smiling into the camera.  The woman is leaning onto the man with her head on his shoulder.What causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease. There probably is not one single cause, but several factors that affect each person differently. Age is the most important known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The number of people with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.

Family history is another risk factor. Researchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists still need to learn a lot more about what causes Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to genetics, they are studying education, diet, and environment to learn what role they might play in developing this disease.. Scientists are finding more and more evidence that some of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and low levels of the vitamin folate may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence for physical mental and social activities as protective factors against Alzheimer’s disease is also growing.

An older man and woman standing in front of a house.  Both are smiling into the camera.  The man is standing behind the woman with his hands on her shoulders.What is the burden of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States?
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s disease has recently surpassed diabetes as the 6th leading cause of death among American adults. Notably, mortality rates for Alzheimer’s disease are on the rise, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates which are continuing to decline.

An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. This number has doubled since 1980, and is expected to be as high as 13.4 million by 2050.

In 2005, total Medicare spending for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease was estimated at $91 billion.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease make up less than 13 percent of the Medicare population, yet they account for 34 percent of Medicare spending.*

*Reference: Urban Institute, unpublished tabulations from the 2000 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey and Medicare Claims, 2005; published by the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, 2007.

Where can I find more information about Alzheimer’s disease?

The National Institutes of Health

The National Library of Medicine

The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center

Alzheimer’s Association*

For additional resources on aging and cognitive health, please visit:

CDC Healthy Brain Initiative

CDC Healthy Aging Program

The National Institute on Aging


* Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users. Links do not constitute an endorsement of any organization by CDC or the federal government, and none should be inferred. The CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization Web pages found at this link.

Page last reviewed: September 25, 2008
Page last modified: September 25, 2008
Content source: Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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