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Contempo Updates
May 8, 2002

Alzheimer Disease

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Neurology (Drs Cummings and Cole), Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences (Dr Cummings), University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, and Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Health Care System (Dr Cole).


Contempo Updates Section Editor: Janet M. Torpy, MD, Fishbein Fellow.

JAMA. 2002;287(18):2335-2338. doi:10.1001/jama.287.18.2335

Alzheimer disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that gradually robs the patient of cognitive function and eventually causes death. We review the epidemiology, clinical features, pathophysiology, and treatment of AD.

Alzheimer disease accounts for 60% to 70% of cases of progressive cognitive impairment in elderly patients. The total prevalence of AD in the United States is estimated at 2.3 million (range, 1.09-4.8 million).1 The prevalence of AD doubles every 5 years after the age of 60 increasing from a prevalence of 1% among those 60- to 64-years-old to up to 40% of those aged 85 years and older.2 The disease is more common among women than men by a ratio of 1.2 to 1.5.3 The number of new cases per year is estimated at 360 000 equating to 980 new cases per day or 40 new cases every hour. The population of patients with AD will nearly quadruple in the next 50 years if the current trend continues.1

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