Mayo Clinic on Alzheimer's Disease

By Ronald Petersen | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease

What is the
secret of
the trick?
How did I get
so old so quick?

Ogden Nash

Preface to the Past

Considering the constant wear and tear on your body over the years, is there any wonder at the changes that result from aging? Yet it often comes as a surprise when your muscles and joints can’t do what they used to or your mind doesn’t seem as agile as it once was. Aging often catches people unawares. Although this complex process called growing old occurs over many years, to some it seems to happen overnight.

The real issue may be not the rate at which people age but rather the differences in the way they age. Why does everyone seem to grow old so differently? There are 60-year-olds who look and act younger than 60 and others who seem considerably older than their age. How can some people remain relatively vibrant and active into their 90s or even 100s while others of the same age have been unable to function and care for themselves for many years? Some of the differences are due to a combination of genetics, lifestyle and environment with a measure of luck thrown in.

But the answer may also have to do with other processes such as disease. Heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, or dementia can be the cause of severe physical and mental impairment. Unfortunately, the effects of disease in older adults are sometimes

-3-

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