What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 70% of all people with dementia. It is estimated that 70,000 New Zealanders are living with dementia today impacting more women than men – around 30% higher. By 2050 it is estimated that more than than 170,000 New Zealanders will be living with dementia.1

Alzheimer’s 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:2

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 is a much less common form in which the disease is passed directly from one generation to another.

A person is usually said to have early onset Alzheimer’s when they develop the condition in their 20s and by their 40s are severely affected by their symptoms. But Alzheimer’s more commonly appears in older adults, with the risk of developing the condition doubling every five years after the age of 60.3

  1. Alzheimers New Zealand,’ The impact of dementia in NZ’, viewed 19th March 2020, https://www.alzheimers.org.nz/our-voice/new-zealand-data
  2. Dementia Australia 2019, ‘Alzheimer’s disease’, viewed 19th March 2020, https://www.dementia.org.au/information/about-dementia/types-of-dementia
  3. Alzheimer’s Association 2019, ‘ Risk factors for Alzheimer’s’ ,viewed 19th March 2020, https://www.alz.org/au/dementia-alzheimers-australia.asp