Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. It's estimated that over 6 million people in the United States are living with dementia caused by Alzheimer's. Roughly 1 in 9 people age 65 or older has this progressive neurological disease.

Alzheimer's gradually destroys memory, thinking ability, and the brain's capacity to function. This article gives an overview of Alzheimer's disease along with facts and statistics about screening, early detection, causes, risk factors, and mortality rates. Read on to learn more about how age, gender, and ethnicity can impact Alzheimer's rates.

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Alzheimer's Disease Overview

Alzheimer's disease is named after a German psychiatrist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer (1864–1915). In 1901, Alzheimer began treating a 51-year-old woman who was losing her memory and thinking ability. When she died in 1904, an autopsy revealed "peculiar" brain abnormalities.

Although the exact cause of Alzheimer's is unknown, it has been determined that a buildup of amyloid and tau proteins is linked to this disease. Amyloid proteins form plaques around brain cells; tau proteins create tangles within brain cells. These injured neurons slowly die, which causes brain atrophy (shrinkage).

Alzheimer's symptoms typically include memory loss, confusion, trouble communicating, and subjective cognitive impairment (decline in memory, learning, decision-making, and concentrating that can't be determined by tests). As this neurodegenerative disease progresses, thinking and reasoning abilities continue to decline. Over time, Alzheimer's can severely impact physical functioning and lead to death.

How Common Is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. Roughly 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer's disease. Of the total U.S. population, 1 in 9 people (10.7%) age 65 and older have Alzheimer's dementia.

A small percentage of people under age 65 also develop early-onset AD. It's estimated that roughly 1 out of 1,000 people (0.1%) under age 65 have Alzheimer's disease.

As the baby boomer generation continues to advance in age, the U.S. population of people over age 65 is expected to grow from 18% in 2023 to 20% in 2030. Because advancing age increases Alzheimer's risk, unless breakthrough treatments are developed, the number of people living with Alzheimer's will be almost 14 million by 2060.

Alzheimer's Disease by Race and Ethnicity

Alzheimer's studies that examine racial and ethnic disparities consistently find higher rates of AD among Black adults. Older Hispanic adults also have a greater incidence of Alzheimer's disease than older non-Hispanic White adults. More high-quality research is needed to establish incidence rates among American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Asian Americans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of adults aged 65 or older with Alzheimer's disease based on race and ethnicity is:

  • 14% among African Americans
  • 12% among Hispanics
  • 10% among non-Hispanic Whites

Alzheimer's is an extremely complex neurodegenerative disorder. Scientists are still trying to understand why race seems to be a biological variable that affects Alzheimer's risk. The underlying functional mechanisms that cause Alzheimer's among certain demographics are still poorly understood.

One problem scientists face is that many of the biomarkers used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease were developed in clinical trials populated mostly by non-Hispanic White study participants. Hence, these diagnostic tests are less effective at diagnosing Alzheimer's disease in other racial and ethnic groups.

Also, correlation does not imply causation. Although incidence rates of Alzheimer's disease are correlated with race and ethnicity, that doesn't mean that racial- or ethnicity-based factors necessarily cause AD.

Alzheimer's Disease by Age & Gender

Age increases Alzheimer's risk, but older age doesn't necessarily cause AD. People over age 65 are at the highest risk of developing what is called late-onset Alzheimer's, but the disease can start in midlife. When someone under age 65 is affected by this neurodegenerative disorder, it's called early-onset or young-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Although Alzheimer's can affect adults in their 30s and 40s, it's rare for the disease to take hold before someone is in their 50s or early 60s. About 1 in 10 people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease experience memory loss or other symptoms before age 65.

Women are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer's disease. Roughly 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with Alzheimer's are women. However, because life expectancy is longer for women, the higher rate of AD dementia among women may be linked to spending more years above age 65. The terms for sex or gender from the cited reference are used.

Causes of Alzheimer's Disease and Risk Factors

Scientists still aren't sure what causes Alzheimer's disease. Most likely, Alzheimer's is caused by a combination of risk factors related to genetics, environmental influences, and lifestyle habits.

Getting older is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's. Increased age increases Alzheimer's risk, but not everyone gets Alzheimer's as they get older. That said, the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease doubles every year over age 65.

Family history is another Alzheimer's risk factor. Having a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s increases someone's odds of developing the disease. Risk increases if someone has more than one family member with Alzheimer's. When a disease like Alzheimer's runs in families, it's possible that genetics and environmental influences both play a role.

One of the most well-established genetic risk factors for developing Alzheimer's is the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE4). Inheriting the APOE4 gene increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. However, inheriting this gene doesn't automatically mean that someone will develop AD.

Lifestyle factors associated with heart disease can increase Alzheimer's risk. These include:

Lifestyle choices such as not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, healthy eating, getting regular exercise, staying socially engaged, and keeping your mind active may substantially reduce Alzheimer's risk.

What Are the Mortality Rates for Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease was the fifth leading cause of death in the United States for people over age 65 in 2019 and the sixth leading cause of death among the entire U.S. population. (The ranking of the leading causes of death in 2020 and 2021 were affected by the large number of COVID-19 deaths in this age group).

Mortality statistics for Alzheimer's are hard to pin down because the broader term "dementia" is often listed on a death certificate as the cause of death. All told, 1 in 3 people over age 65 die with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

Deaths from Alzheimer's doubled between 2000 and 2019. During those 19 years, more people died from Alzheimer's disease than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Among people aged 70, 6 out of 10 people with Alzheimer’s dementia are expected to die before reaching age 80, compared to 3 out of 10 people without Alzheimer’s dementia.

Alzheimer's Mortality by State

The age-adjusted number of deaths per 100,000 people in the total population from Alzheimer's disease is calculated by the CDC annually. In 2021, Mississippi, Alabama, and Washington had the highest Alzheimer's mortality rates; New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts had the lowest.

Screening and Early Detection

There are several quick and relatively reliable screening tests for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Some cognitive status tests can be self-administered at home, but simple screening tests shouldn't be a substitute for having a thorough diagnostic evaluation by a healthcare provider.

In addition to screening tests that assess mental cognitive status, other science-backed tools can help make an Alzheimer's diagnosis. Developing better ways to diagnose this progressively degenerative disease before it causes irreversible brain damage is one of the most active areas of Alzheimer's research.

Tools used to aid in earlier diagnosis of people displaying Alzheimer's symptoms include:

Although there isn't a cure for Alzheimer's disease, there are lifestyle changes and medications that can reduce symptoms. Also, early detection gives people time to fortify their support network and create coping strategies for sustaining their quality of life.


Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Although this progressive neurodegenerative disorder can start before age 65 (early-onset), most people don't experience Alzheimer's until their mid-60s (late-onset). As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of people living with Alzheimer's disease in the United States will grow and could reach 14 million by 2060. 

Race, ethnicity, and gender may play a role in Alzheimer's risk, but advancing age remains the highest risk factor. Genetics and family history may also influence someone's odds of developing Alzheimer's. Although there isn't a cure for Alzheimer's, lifestyle choices such as eating a healthier diet and staying physically active may help offset other risk factors. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are Alzheimer's and dementia the same thing?

    Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia. There are different types of dementia. Although Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, not every case of dementia is diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease.

  • What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?

    Alzheimer's symptoms typically include progressive memory loss that disrupts daily life, frequently misplacing things, and challenges with problem-solving and planning. Other symptoms are difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion, disorientation, and changes in verbal fluency. Over time, Alzheimer's can lead to personality changes and a withdrawal from social engagement.

  • Can you get Alzheimer's disease at a young age?

    Alzheimer's disease typically affects older adults in their mid-60s, but early-onset Alzheimer's can occur before age 65. Although people in their 30s and 40s can start to develop Alzheimer's disease, this is rare.

20 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Christopher Bergland
Christopher Bergland is a retired ultra-endurance athlete turned medical writer and science reporter.