Alzheimer's disease attacks brain cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages between brain cells), affecting the way your brain functions, your memory and the way you behave. It is also the most common form of dementia.
Dementia is a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It affects thinking, behaviour, and your ability to do normal tasks. About 7 in 10 people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.
While the exact cause is unknown, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease may be increased by a range of factors, including:
- a family history of the condition
- previous severe head injuries
- lifestyle factors and conditions affecting heart and brain health
If you are worried that you may have Alzheimer's disease, visit your doctor to get some advice. Your doctor may ask you about any new or worsening problems you may have noticed such as:
- speech problems such as difficulty finding the right words
- difficulty in understanding what people are saying
- personality and mood changes
- difficulty with performing everyday routine activities
There is no single test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. If your doctor suspects you may have Alzheimer’s disease, they may refer you to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis.
Although Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of ageing, it is more common in older people and may affect about 3 in every 10 people over the age of 85.
For more information and support, visit the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
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Last reviewed: March 2019