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Alzheimer's Disease


Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.1 Early signs include difficulty remembering names and completing familiar tasks, with later disease progression leading to disorientation, personality changes, and difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking. Although the risk for Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging. Risk factors include a family history, head trauma or traumatic brain injury, and cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and physical inactivity.

In 2011, 5.2 million or 13 percent of U.S. adults aged 65 and older are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease and another 200,000 below age 65 are thought to have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Due to the aging of the population, the number of adults aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple by 2050.1 Women constitute 3.4 million or nearly two-thirds of adults aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth leading cause of death among men and women aged 65 and older.1 Severe dementia causes complications, such as immobility and swallowing disorders, that can lead to death. In 2007, 1.9 per 1,000 or nearly 74,000 adults aged 65 and older, 70 percent of whom were women, died of Alzheimer’s. The risk of death due to Alzheimer’s increases greatly with age, from 0.2 deaths per 1,000 for those aged 65–74 years to 8.5 deaths per 1,000 for those aged 85 and older. Overall, women are nearly twice as likely as men to die of Alzheimer’s disease (2.4 versus 1.3 deaths per 1,000 aged 65 and older). The greater rates of Alzheimer’s prevalence and mortality among women are related to their longer life expectancy rather than an increased age-specific risk of disease.1

Not only are women more likely than men to have Alzheimer’s, they are also more likely to be caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s. Of the nearly 15 million Americans who provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, 60 percent are women and they report a high level of emotional and physical stress.1,2 Given the large and increasing burden of Alzheimer’s disease, advances in prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment are greatly needed. Recently, a new diagnostic category of “preclinical Alzheimer’s disease” was developed to aid research for early detection and treatment prior to the onset of symptoms.1

1 Alzheimer’s Association.External Web Site Policy 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Accessed 07/11/11.
2 Geiger A, Morgan O, Meyer K, Skelton K, eds. The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.



Adults Aged 65 and Older with Alzheimer’s Disease,* By Sex, 2011

Percent with Alzheimer’s Disease:

  • Male: 34.6
  • Female: 65.4

*Estimates are from the Chicago Health and Aging Project incidence rates converted to prevalence estimates and applied to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the population aged 65 and older.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association.External Web Site Policy 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Accessed 07/11/11.

Deaths Due to Alzheimer’s Disease* per 1,000 Adults Aged 65 and Older, By Age and Sex, 2007
Age Group Percent of Adults
Female Male Total
*Deaths with Alzheimer’s disease listed as underlying cause.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File 1999-2007. CDC WONDER On-line Database, compiled from Compressed Mortality File 1999-2007 Series 20 No. 2M, 2010.
65-74 Years 0.2 0.2 0.2
75-84 Years 1.9 1.6 1.8
85 Years and Older 9.5 6.5 8.5
Total 2.4 1.3 1.9


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