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World Alzheimer's Day is September 21.
World Alzheimer's Day is September 21.
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The Global Fight To End Alzheimer's Disease, In 5 Fast Facts

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 20 September 2016
It’s World Alzheimer’s Month and, with someone being diagnosed with dementia every three seconds worldwide, it’s important to know what the disease is and what the future of treatment looks like. As technology and research progress, many hope to see a cure for Alzheimer’s in our lifetime.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: What’s the difference?

Sometimes we hear the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” used interchangeably — and there’s a reason for that. Alzheimer’s disease is actually the most common form of dementia. Dementia refers to a broader mental decline that can interfere with simple daily activities. According to the U.S. National Institute of Aging, Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder marked by visible changes in the brain that specifically cause mental decline.

What are some of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s?

Though noticeable symptoms may take years to manifest, researchers say Alzheimer’s patients experience brain changes many years before their loved ones notice a mental decline. Some of the symptoms that appear as the disease progresses include memory problems, decreased sense of smell, impaired reasoning, and difficulty finding the right words to match a sentiment.

Most patients with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed after age 65. People with diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are at heightened risk of developing the disease. Heart disease and traumatic brain injury have also been tentatively linked to Alzheimer’s.

Most Alzheimer's patients are over age 65.
Most Alzheimer’s patients are over age 65.

How many people worldwide have Alzheimer’s?

Nearly 44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s. The disease is most prevalent in Western Europe, with the United States and Canada coming in a close second. Alzheimer’s International estimates that by 2050, 131.5 million people in middle and low income countries will be living with some form of dementia.

Since there’s no cure, what’s being done to fight the disease?

Research is ongoing, but most recently researchers found that an investigational drug could slow the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s. This new research is being hailed as a major breakthrough in the fight to find new ways to mitigate and treat the disease.

“We’re encouraged that there appeared to be a slowing of cognitive decline at a dose-dependent manner, and also a dose-dependent slowing in functional decline,” said study co-author Dr. Stephen Salloway, a neurologist at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, according to Science.

What can I do to help in the global fight to end Alzheimer’s for good?

You can donate to organizations that raise awareness or simply help spread the word about how Alzheimer’s disease is a global problem that needs a viable solution.