AD was first recognized as “a peculiar disease” in 1906 by Alois Alzheimer after conducting a brain autopsy in a patient who had profound memory loss. Dr. Alzheimer, a “pioneer in linking symptoms to microscopic brain changes,” observed microscopic brain changes, abnormal deposits, and dramatic shrinkage.3 The disease was officially named in 1910, by his colleague Emil Kraepelin, in the eighth edition of the book Psychiatrie.
AD is the most common form of dementia and a “major killer.”4-6 Worldwide, it is estimated that 44 million individuals endure this disease or a related dementia.7 In the United States (U.S.) it is estimated 5.3 million individuals experience this disorder. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.8 Due to the aging U.S. population, the prevalence of AD is forecast to double by 2020.1
Scientists have not yet identified the exact cause of AD. Scientific advances point to several factors, including the loss of cholinergic neurons, that contribute to developing the disease.2 There is growing consensus the disease is caused by a “complex series of events that take place in the brain over a long period of time.”9 Factors known to contribute to AD include aging, gender, systemic disease, genetics, traumatic brain injury, obesity, and smoking.1,9-12