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Transcript: "What Is Alzheimer's Disease?"

Interviewer: What exactly is Alzheimer's Disease?

Dr. Silverberg: Alzheimer's Disease is a brain disease. It's associated with aging, but it's not a normal part of aging, and it affects memory and thinking and behavior. It's more common in people as they get older, so, like I said, it is associated with aging, but it's not a normal part of aging. The disease starts, we think, with damage to the brain without any outward symptoms that a person would know about and that's really considered the earliest stages. A little bit later there's something that is now diagnosed called "mild cognitive impairment," MCI. And that is not dementia, but at that point some people are experiencing some forgetting and a large number of people who have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop Alzheimer's Disease within some number of years, not immediately. And then, as the disease progresses, there are basically three stages that are usually referred to-- mild, moderate, and severe. And in the milder stages, people are still pretty much able to conduct most aspects of their life perfectly fine. You could have a conversation with a person with Alzheimer's Disease and not really even know that they had it. And then in the more moderate stages people will begin to start behaving inappropriately sometimes or forgetting much more, repeating the same questions over and over, or stories over and over. And in the more severe stages they will lose the ability to control their bodily functions, and they really need complete care at that point.

Interviewer: How long can a person live with Alzheimer's Disease?

Dr. Silverberg: The average is eight to 10 years, but people can live quite a long time after they're diagnosed with the disease, and unfortunately, towards the end, they're really unable to care for themselves at all. My grandmother had Alzheimer's Disease and she lived with it for 14 years before she passed away. So, it can get quite difficult at the end.

Interviewer: How many Americans are affected by Alzheimer's Disease?

Dr. Silverberg: There's an estimate that it affects 4.5 million Americans currently. That's a large number and with the Baby Boom generation getting older, we expect, unfortunately, more and more cases of it to be coming up.

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