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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and is a progressive disease that affects the parts of the brain controlling thoughts, memories, and emotions. Though Alzheimer's disease mostly affects older adults, it is not a normal part of aging.

The Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Program focuses on issues such as increasing early detection, diagnosis, and risk reduction for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementias, prevention of avoidable hospitalizations related to these diseases and conditions, and providing support for dementia-related caregiving.

Alzheimer's in Iowa

Over 66,000 Iowans aged 65 and older have Alzheimer's Disease. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the US, impacting nearly 6 million Americans. In addition, over 73,000 Iowans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

In September 2020, the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services engaged in a three-year cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to build public health infrastructure related to Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Funding for this work is provided by the CDC as a result of the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act.

The activities outlined in the BOLD Act seek to create a uniform national public health infrastructure with a focus on increasing early detection and diagnosis, risk reduction, prevention of avoidable hospitalizations, and supporting dementia caregiving. Learn more about the BOLD act.

The long-term goals for this work are:

  • Increase the proportion of adults aged 65 and older with diagnosed ADRD, or their caregivers, who are aware of the diagnosis;
  • Increase the proportion of older adults who talk to their health care provider about changes in their memory;
  • Reduce the proportion of preventable hospitalizations in adults aged 65 and older with diagnosed ADRD; and
  • Increase the proportion of older adults who use the Welcome to Medicare benefit.

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Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.  Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of cognitive loss and are always worth getting checked by a doctor.  If you or someone you know has several of the signs listed below, it does not necessarily mean that Alzheimer’s disease is the cause.  However, one should talk with a health care provider when experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relations
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of symptoms associated with cognitive impairment.  Dementia is not a specific disease but is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with everyday activities. 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases.  While dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a normal part of aging.  Normal aging may include some age-related memory changes such as:

  • Occasionally misplacing car keys
  • Struggling to find a word but remembering it later
  • Forgetting the name of an acquaintance

Signs and symptoms of dementia can vary widely from person to person. People with dementia may show problems with:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Communication
  • Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving
  • Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision

Signs that may point to dementia include:

  • Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
  • Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
  • Forgetting old memories
  • Not being able to complete tasks independently

There is no simple test to determine a dementia diagnosis. Physicians must diagnose dementia and Alzheimer’s disease based on carefully reviewing medical history, and laboratory tests and discussing changes in thinking, everyday functioning, and behaviors.  Individuals experiencing changes in their memory should have a conversation with their health care provider.

What is Cognitive Decline?

Cognition is a combination of processes in the brain that includes the ability to learn, remember and make judgments. When cognition is impaired, it greatly impacts an individual’s health and well-being.

Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD) is the self-reported worsening or more frequent memory loss or confusion. It is a form of cognitive impairment and an early noticeable symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Some cognitive decline can occur naturally with age, but forgetting how to perform routine tasks in daily life is not a normal part of aging. These changes should be discussed with a health care provider.

Researchers have found that only half of adults with SCD and a chronic condition have discussed their memory loss with a healthcare professional. Early diagnosis of memory loss is especially important for people with chronic health conditions.


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