Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Melville, NY, resident Ellen Scharaga is responsible for all oncology pharmacy operations and services as the senior vice president of oncology pharmacy services at OncoMed Pharmaceutical Services. A regular volunteer and contributor to several organizations, Ellen Scharaga supports the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Alzheimer’s disease kills nerve cells in the brain, which makes it difficult for the affected person to remember things correctly and think clearly. Accounting for anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases, Alzheimer’s is perhaps the most common form of dementia. Although the risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases among individuals who are 65 and older, around 5 percent of cases occur among individuals between the ages of 40 and 50.

Alzheimer’s typically begins slowly, starting with basic forgetfulness, but it gradually gets worse and causes individuals to forget things like how to drive and how to pay bills. Some individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may also become violent or angry as the illness worsens. Typically, individuals with the disease live around eight years once symptoms appear, but some patients survive as long as 20 years after the initial symptoms.

It is important to see a doctor to discuss the causes of any memory problems. Although no cure currently exists for Alzheimer’s, research continues to advance, and patients can obtain treatments for their symptoms to help improve quality of life.