Alzheimer's Disease


Granddaughter and grandfather, looking at globe

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. 5.7 million Americans are estimated to be living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018. It is the fifth leading cause of death for adults aged 65 years and older, and the sixth leading cause of death for all adults. Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language, and, over time, can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Although the cause is still unknown, scientists are learning more every day about Alzheimer’s disease and what can be done to prevent and treat this fatal illness.


Key Facts

  • Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.
  • 5.7 million Americans are estimated to be living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018.
  • Symptoms usually begin after age 60, but Alzheimer’s disease likely starts a decade or more before problems first appear.
  • Risk factors include aging, diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking cigarettes, and a family history of dementia.
  • Alzheimer’s death rates increased 55% and the number of Alzheimer’s deaths at home increased from 14% to 25% while deaths in institutional settings decreased, from 1999 to 2014.
  • More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
  • Currently, there is no cure. There are pharmaceutical options for managing symptoms and care planning.


Senior man
Memory Loss

About 1 in 9 people aged 45 years and older report experiencing subjective cognitive decline (SCD), which is memory problems that have been getting worse over the past year, while only 45% of people with SCD reported speaking with a health care provider about it. 1 in 3 people reporting SCD say that it interfered with social activities, work, or volunteering.

Mature couple laughing
What is a Healthy Brain?

A healthy brain is one that can perform all the processes that are collectively known as cognition, including language, memory, thinking, and reasoning.

Adult woman stroking grandmother's hair

About 20% of Americans have provided care for a friend or family member in the past month and consider themselves a caregiver. Caregivers provide unique and needed services that complement the health care system. Caregivers for persons with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia may provide assistance with personal care needs, such as help with bathing, dressing, and toileting. As the baby boomer generation ages, there will be more demand for caregivers. About 15% of Americans who are not currently caregivers expect to become caregivers in the next 5 years.

Senior man playing chess with younger woman
Healthy Brain Initiative

"The Healthy Brain Initiative: A National Public Health Road Map to Maintaining Cognitive Health" spreads understanding of and support for healthy cognitive aging as a central part of public health practice, through promoting cognitive functioning; addressing cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease; and meeting the needs of caregivers. Learn more at

Prevention Tips

Some risks factors to brain health cannot be controlled or prevented, like your age or genetics. Other risk factors, like health choices, are under your control. For example, you can:

  • Get active and stay active.
  • Manage cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
  • Learn new things.
  • Connect with your family, friends and communities.
Page last reviewed: February 3, 2021