Alzheimer's disease declines in extreme old age.





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Senile dementia is the medical term for senility, the gradual loss of mental function that so often occurs with aging. Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of senile dementia, accounts for more than 60 percent of the cognitive function disorders in the aging population. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition that results in a slow deterioration of memory, reasoning, and behavior. The loss of intellectual function interferes with daily life, and after a disease course that may last many years, eventually results in death. Death is usually due to factors such as malnutrition, complications of the immune system such as pneumonia or infection, injury, and even choking.1

In its beginning stages, Alzheimer's can be a difficult disease to spot; the changes in memory and behavior are barely noticeable at first. The disease may worsen within the first several years or take as long as twenty to progress. Average survival time after diagnosis is generally four to eight years. Memory loss gradually worsens, along with a decline in ability to perform routine daily tasks. Late stage Alzheimer's sufferers experience increasing disorientation, impaired judgment, personality changes, difficulty in learning, and a loss of language skills. As yet, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease.

A recent study conducted in Cache County, Utah, examined the incidence of Alzheimer's disease among the elderly, and the role of sex difference and extreme old age. 122 patients previously diagnosed as cognitively compromised, but not demented, were included in the study which involved a total of 3,308 participants. Between 1998 and 1999, 185 individuals were diagnosed with dementia, and of those, 123 had Alzheimer's. The results demonstrated that incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's increased from ages 85 to 90 years, but seemed to decrease after the age of 93 in men and 97 in women. Women also showed a larger incident of Alzheimer's after the age of 85. The presence of genotype APOE-4 alleles had a statistical connection with age, and illustrated a rapid increase of Alzheimer's disease. The authors concluded that Alzheimer's disease and dementia increased with age but then peaked and decreased in extreme age. Onset of Alzheimer's was accelerated by the existence of genotype APOE-4 alleles.2


1. Beard CM, et al. Cause of death in Alzheimer's disease. Ann Epidemiol. May1996;6(3):195-200.
2. Miech RA, et al. Incidence of AD may decline in the early 90s for men, later for women. Neurology. Jan 2002;58:209-218.