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March 12, 1997

Alzheimer Disease Research Comes of AgeThe Pace Accelerates

Author Affiliations

From the National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Md.

JAMA. 1997;277(10):837-840. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540340071036

Once considered a rare disorder, Alzheimer disease (AD) is now recognized as a major public health problem. In more than 90% of cases, AD develops after the age of 65 years (late-onset AD), with its prevalence doubling with every successive decade of life. There are cases of early-onset AD in which onset can range from the fourth decade of life until age 65 years, although these are much more rare. Despite these differences in age of onset, the clinical signature of the disease, as well as the neuropathology, is very similar in all cases. It is estimated that AD currently afflicts approximately 4 million Americans and that it occurs in nearly half of people aged 85 years and older. In addition, AD has a profound effect on the millions of spouses, relatives, and friends who make up the extensive informal network of those who provide care for people with this