By Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD, Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, SWHR Interdisciplinary Network on Alzheimer’s Disease Member
An estimated 5.2 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Of these Americans, 5 million are over the age of 65 years old. AD is the third leading cause of death in older adults, and is the only top 10 cause of death in the U.S. with no disease modifying treatment or proven treatment for prevention.
Even with the statistics mentioned above, it is surprising that the actual diagnosing of the disease remains problematic. Not only is the clinical question regarding “Are there changes in thinking or memory?” not asked in many routine healthcare visits, many cases of dementia go undiagnosed or unclassified. This troubling trend, coupled with the staggering number of projected cases of dementia in the coming years, led the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association (NIA-AA) to partner and propose that a critical review of the existing research be conducted with the goal of recommending new updated diagnostic criteria and guidelines for AD.
In 2011, a series of articles was released from the NIA-AA Working Group. The resulting new diagnostic criteria incorporated two important changes: discussion of the early stages of AD, as well as the introduction of the terminology “presymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease;” and the importance of biomarker tests to aid in the diagnosis of AD.
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