Early-onset and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease are characterized by the age a person develops these symptoms.
Late-onset Alzheimer’s is more common, but both age groups share similar symptoms and exhibit the same brain changes.
However, the causes for these brain changes vary slightly depending on when in life the disease develops.
Read on to learn more about late-onset Alzheimer’s, including the symptoms, risk factors, and latest research.
What is late-onset Alzheimer’s disease?
Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease develops after age 65, while early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs before age 65.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is an umbrella term for symptoms such as memory loss and cognitive decline. Out of all dementia cases, 60% to 80% are Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s, while an estimated 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with the disease.
Of these 6.5 million people, 73% are aged 75 or older. About 5% to 6% of people with Alzheimer’s develop symptoms before age 65.
Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging, despite older adults making up the majority of cases.
What causes Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is characterized by abnormal structures in the brain called plaques and tangles. The plaques and tangles build up in the brain and damage brain cells.
The damage eventually leads to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, which include memory loss, confusion, and behavior changes that gradually worsen over time—even though the brain changes are believed to occur several years before symptoms begin.
Experts don’t know exactly why these changes start to occur in the brain, but they believe they’re linked to certain medical, environmental, and genetic risk factors.
What are the risk factors for late-onset Alzheimer’s?
The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age, but again, the disease is not a normal part of aging.
While genetic factors are out of our control, there are other factors that we may be able to control by adopting an overall more healthy lifestyle and keeping any known illnesses in check.
Let’s take a look at the types of factors scientists believe increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. It’s important to note that experts don’t believe there’s a single cause, but likely multiple influencing factors.
Environmental factors for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease
Scientists believe brain health and heart health are strongly linked. As a result, the following conditions may contribute to a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Working with a doctor to keep these conditions under control may help curb the risks of dementia.
Doctors also believe experiencing a traumatic brain injury increases the risk of cognitive decline later in life.
Improving overall health and wellness through a healthy diet, exercise, social activity, and avoiding drugs, alcohol, and smoking may boost brain health and add protection from cognitive decline.
Genetic factors for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease
According to research, late-onset AD is more likely to develop in those who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s, and there’s an increased risk if more than one family member has it.
What is the difference between early-onset and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease?
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease affects people younger than 65, with most people developing it between 30 to 60 years old.
Early-onset AD may be caused by genetics, but experts aren’t sure exactly why some people get Alzheimer’s younger than other people do.
Another issue with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is the higher rate of misdiagnosis. The early-onset form is rare, so it may be more difficult to find someone who believes Alzheimer’s is the cause of the symptoms.
The symptoms of both early-onset and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease are similar, and progress similarly.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Forgetfulness, particularly with new information or dates
- Issues with judgment and problem-solving
- Losing track of time and place
- Trouble finding the right words
- Misplacing items
- Changes in behavior, mood, and personality
As the disease progresses, these symptoms may become much more severe.
No matter what age a person develops Alzheimer’s, their doctor will first try to rule out other causes of the symptoms before making an official diagnosis.
Other illnesses can sometimes mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Sometimes, a vitamin deficiency or medication side effect can be the cause. That’s why a doctor will perform a series of tests before beginning any treatments for Alzheimer’s.
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but a combination of medications, supplements, and therapies may be used to ease symptoms and maintain quality of life as much as possible.
How to find specialized memory care as your loved one’s disease progresses
If your loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, you may be wondering about the next steps.
Making a care plan for your loved one is best while they are in the early stages of the disease because they can participate in the conversation and help make decisions.
It’s better to have a plan in place before situations become more complicated or severe.
While you may decide to serve as a caregiver for your loved one, there may come a time when dementia caregiving becomes too much for family members.
Sometimes, for the safety, security, and comfort of your loved one, a memory care community is the best option.
Watch our recent discussion with Licensed Social Worker, Beth St. John, on How to Decide When the Time is Right: Successfuly Transitioning into a Memory Care Community.
Kensington Place Redwood City offers two memory care ‘neighborhoods’ to accommodate different levels of support
Connections is for those in the early to middle stages of dementia, while Haven is for those in the middle to late stages.
Each neighborhood is designed for maximum comfort, familiarity, and security, with monitoring technology and specialized life enrichment programming tailored to your loved one’s unique talents and interests.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, preserving the quality of life becomes most important.
If you’d like to take the next steps in expert memory care for your loved one, reach out to our team today to learn more about our services.
We provide true “aging in place,” where no matter how a person’s care needs change or advance over time, they have a home with us.