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What Causes Alzheimer's?: Everything You Need to Know

Types and Stages|Causes and Symptoms|Risks, Prevention, and Treatment
What Causes Alzheimer's?: Everything You Need to Know

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. Dementia is the general medical term for different kinds of diseases that cause memory loss and impede cognitive abilities. To varying degrees, dementia affects the quality of life. What causes Alzheimer’s and can it be treated?

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease makes up 60% to 80% of dementia cases and affects behavior, memory, and thinking. As a progressive disease, meaning it exacerbates by itself over time, it eventually gets to a point wherein it would interfere with someone’s daily life so much that they would need supervision and assistance around the clock.

Alzheimer’s vs Dementia Difference: Find Out Here


Types and Stages

There are three types of Alzheimer’s disease, two of which depend on when it is diagnosed and one that depends on whether or not it was inherited.

Familial Alzheimer’s disease

The first type is familial Alzheimer’s disease, known as FAD, and this is the only type of Alzheimer’s disease that doctors and researchers have identified to be genetic.

This type of Alzheimer’s disease is rare and makes up as little as 1% of all known cases, most of which are diagnosed early. In families of patients with FAD, there are members of at least two generations that have also been diagnosed with this disease.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s

The second type of Alzheimer’s disease is early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This is when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s under the age of 65 and even as young as 40. This is also rare, but not as rare as FAD, making up 5% of all known cases and is linked with myoclonus, which is a kind of spasm or muscle twitching.

The cause of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is not known but correlations to chromosome 14 found in the DNA and down syndrome have been discerned in the past.

Late-onset Alzheimer’s

The third type of Alzheimer’s disease is late-onset Alzheimer’s disease which makes up the remaining 95% of cases since FAD overlaps with early- and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This is diagnosed at 65 years old or older and may or may not be genetic since, at present, there is no sufficient research backing a correlation of this to a certain gene.

Stages of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Disease is progressive in nature. There are three Alzheimer’s disease stages with varying durations and degrees in which someone’s daily life is affected by it.

Early stage

In the early stage, one can suffer from mild memory loss which will cause difficulty in retaining new material, knowing where they’ve left things, and recalling certain words or names.

Middle stage

The middle stage is the stage that lasts the longest and is really where someone suffering this disease starts requiring more and more care from here on out. This is where the dementia systems become more pronounced and this may cause behavioral changes and frustration or irritability.

Late stage

The late-stage is when someone may need extensive care because they suffer from severe dementia symptoms that will affect not only their cognitive but also their motor capabilities.

8 Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms To Watch Out For

Causes and Symptoms

What Causes Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins related to the development of or structure of brain cells. When these, also known as amyloid and tau proteins, are affected they impede normal neuronal function. This causes a decrease in neurotransmitters and area-specific brain shrinkage. There is no known cause for these conditions.

Signs and Symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease symptoms are important to look out for to be able to get into diagnosis and consequently a treatment plan as soon as possible. It may be difficult for someone to notice these symptoms for themselves, but it may be obvious to other people. The earlier the diagnosis takes place, the better chances of intervention methods to work.

The most common and distinctive symptom that manifests early on is difficulty retaining newly-learned information; Alzheimer’s Disease first affects the part of the brain responsible for storing learned data.

Severe symptoms include

  • Immense confusion and disorientation regarding events, places, and time
  • Unfounded suspicions
  • Behavioral changes
  • Difficulty speaking brought about by serious memory loss

Alzheimer’s Disease Causes, Stages, and Symptoms

Risks, Prevention, and Treatment

There is only one most significant factor that could put you at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and that is age. After the age of 65, the risk doubles every five years.

Common disease risk factors like family history could contribute in the slightest, especially for FAD. Down Syndrome has also been a considered risk factor considering that genetic irregularity can cause amyloid plaque buildup.

These are the only risk factors that have a significant impact. However, some form of correlation has been found with conditions like cardiovascular diseases, depression, head injuries, hearing loss, and a sedentary lifestyle, all of which are worth avoiding.


Since the cause of Alzheimer’s is not specific, there is no sure way to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.

However, one of the ways to be able to prevent the condition from progressing quickly is to seek medical help as soon as symptoms have been observed. If your family has a history of FAD or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in general, consider genetic counseling to be able to gauge how at-risk you might be for the same disease.

Otherwise, there is not much to be done aside from making good lifestyle decisions to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease and making it a point to stay holistically active for the overall wellness of the brain and body.


There is no current cure for the disease, but there are ways to treat the symptoms. Current Alzheimer’s disease treatment cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing but rather reduces the speed at which it exacerbates to improve someone’s quality of life.

Key Takeaways

What causes Alzheimer’s? The reasons have yet to be pinpointed, but certain factors put one at risk such as family history and age. Alzheimer’s Disease has no cure, but there are ways to improve the quality of life. Seek help early on, as soon as symptoms become apparent, and prepare for needed assistance.

Learn more about Dementia and Alzheimer’s here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


What is Alzheimer’s, https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers, Accessed Dec 17, 2020

Alzheimer’s Disease, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/, Accessed Dec 17, 2020

Alzheimer’s Disease, https://www.who.int/medicines/areas/priority_medicines/BP6_11Alzheimer.pdf, Accessed Dec 17, 2020

Dementia, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia, Accessed Dec 17, 2020

Alzheimer’s Disease, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet, Accessed Dec 17, 2020

Alzheimer’s Disease, https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm, Accessed Dec 17, 2020

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Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos Updated Dec 23, 2020
Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, M.D.