What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Accounting for between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of all dementias worldwide, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a physical brain disease characterised by the impairment of brain functions such as impaired memory, language, thinking and behaviour. It is a progressive disease caused by the gradual degeneration of brain cells.

Alzheimer’s disease can broadly be categorised into two areas:

  • Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease: Can affect adults at any age, but occurs most often after age 65. This is the most common form of Alzheimer’s disease and affects people who may or may not have a family history of the disease.
  • Familial Alzheimer’s disease: Much less common form in which the disease is passed directly from one generation to another.

Causes of Alzheimer's Disease

Although the causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still not yet fully understood, scientists are starting to gain a greater understanding of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. These include age, family history, heart health and lifestyle factors, such as diet or physical activity.

The greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease is advancing age. Studies have shown that the occurrence of Alzheimer’s increases from about the age of 65. In Singapore, one in 10 people aged 60 and above has dementia1.

1 Source: Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) study by the Institute of Mental Health

People with a first degree relative, such as a parent or a sibling, who has developed Alzheimer’s disease, have an increased risk of developing the disease. This risk is higher if two or more first degree relatives have been affected.

Although there are no definitive protective factors for dementia, there is now a growing body of evidence that suggests that there are several lifestyle factors that could reduce the risk of developing dementia.

These include:

  • Maintaining a level of physical activity
  • Adopting a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a socially active lifestyle
  • Staying mentally active
  • Managing your cholestorol levels or blood glucose levels if you have cardiovascular disease or diabetes
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