Alzheimer's disease is the fifth leading cause of death in American adults age 65 and older. It affects as many as 5 million Americans and millions more people worldwide.
Age is the primary risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. The number of cases of Alzheimer's disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. According to the U.S. Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 8 people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. While less common, Alzheimer’s can also affect younger people. About 200,000 Americans younger than age 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
More women than men develop Alzheimer’s disease but this is most likely because women tend to live longer than men.
Race and Ethnicity
African Americans and Hispanics are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease than whites. This may be due in part to their higher prevalence of medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which are associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s.
People with a family history of Alzheimer's are at higher than average risk for the disease.
Review Date: 06/22/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.