Thomas Tsirakis, BA
Alzheimer Disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia in Canada, affecting 8% of the general population over 60 years of age, and more than 35% of those over 80 years of age. The current number of Canadians affected with the disease is estimated to be 160,000 with approximately 10,000 dying of AD and related dementias every year.
The normal progression of AD typically follows a gradual 7- to 10-year decline in cognitive abilities. All brain functions are eventually affected, but disturbances in judgment, memory, and language appear early on in the disease, with motor function, and bowel and bladder control being maintained during this time period. The progressive and slow decline of an individual's cognitive abilities in AD has been compared to observing the process of normal human development in a reverse order.
Since there is currently no definitive clinical test available for establishing the presence of AD, it is imperative that the clinician utilize standardized diagnostic criteria and formal testing in order to rule out the possibility of any reversible forms of dementia. Individuals presenting with cognitive deficits of a rapid onset should be suspected of having some underlying etiology other than AD.