Can signs of Alzheimer's show up as early as mid 50's?

8 answers | Last updated: Nov 25, 2016
Schmice asked...

Can you begin to manifest signs of Alzheimer's in your mid to late 50s?

Expert Answers

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health and caregiving; four of her family members have had dementia.

Yes, it's possible to develop Alzheimer's in one's fifties. As many as a half million people have what's called early-onset Alzheimer's, which develops any time before age 65, sometimes in the 40s and 50s. Early-onset Alzheimer's tends to run in families. It's caused by a known gene mutation.

Far more common in midlife is for normal brain aging to be mistaken for Alzheimer's. Changes in brain processing begin as early as the 20s and 30s. It's in the 40s and especially 50s, though, that these changes become evident as memory loss. It's the severity of memory loss and the speed of change that distinguish normal brain aging from Alzheimer's disease.

Other conditions and medications can also cause memory problems. That's why it's important to have a proper Alzheimer's evaluation. Alzheimer's is a disease that's diagnosed by eliminating all the other possibilities.


Community Answers

Emilypinaud answered...

Are alzheimers and dimentia the same thing? And how do you know which is which if the symptoms mimick each other.

Tammibarnes answered...

My mother developed early onset Alzheimer's disease in her late forties, early fifties. I am now 50 and lost my car in Wal-Mart's parking lot for over a half hour last year!! I was so freaked out and in tears that my husband thought the car was stolen (guess that was all he could understand of my babbling over the phone). It wasn't really because of the car but thinking that I too, was starting to lose my mind. It is a terrible disease to deal with in someone you love and you see so much of the damage that it never really leaves you.But like the expert above mentioned...there are LOTS or other reasons for having memory problems, stress being the number one culprit. Once my husband got me calmed down I had a thorough check up a week later. I changed my diet, exercised more often and got some rest. It made a world of difference. I hope this helps...just my experience.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Stress and distraction will definitely cause you to think you're losing your mind. I have loaded all my groceries into a car that looked like mine (oh, after looking around the parking lot for a while too!) I think especially if we are caring for a loved one with dementia, we start to see any lapse as a sign that we too are cognitively impaired.

Geri hall answered...

Two responses:

  1. You can develop AD at quite a young age. My youngest patient (so far) was 23. And considering that people have changes in their brains for 10-15 years before there are ANY symptoms, that patient must have had the disease since childhood. Early onset dementia is the focus of much concern by care professionals as the disease symptoms tend to be more involved than when it presents in the 70's and the social/monetary issues are different. Many many people present with AD in their 40's and 50's.

Among families where AD is present there is an over-riding fear of AD in the next generation. While the statisitics are surprisingly small, I would suggest mentioning it to your doc.

If you are a woman in your early 50's, menopause may be playing tricks on you. With menopause there are well-known changes in attention and short-term memory. Also there is insomnia and mood swings. These can give the impression that yoiu have early dementia.

Also in a 50 year old we would check for low thyroid, depression, and overwhelming or chronic situational stress which would cause anxiety and inattention.

  1. What is the difference between dementia and AD? Dementia is a word that describes a set of symptoms indicating permanent and usually progressive damage to the "thinking/doing/remembering/behavior/laguage, and sensory interpretation areas of the brain." When we say dementia we look for a progressive loss of intellectual, planning, day to day function, etc.

In a way, saying you have dementia is a similar type of over-arching symptoms similar to the word "Infection." If you have an infection you have pain, redness, swelling, heat, etc no matter where it is on or inside the body. But there are dozens of germs that cause infections such as TB, staph, strep, e-coli, etc.

With dementia there are dozens of causes. Alzheimer's is simply one cause, the most common in older adults so you hear the most about it. Allpatients with Alzheimer's disease have dementia but all people with dementia do not have Alzheimer's disease.

Other causes of dementia (there are about 100) include fronto-temporal dementia, multi-infarct/vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Huntingdon's chorea, alcoholisma, repeated trauma (injury) and so forth.

Hope this helps Geri R Hall, PhD, ARNP, GCNS, FAAN Advanced Practice Nurse Banner Alzheimer's Institute

Caregiving wife answered...

My husband was diagnosed with early-stage, early-onset Alzheimer's at age 57, and it was going on for at least a couple years before the diagnosis. He held pretty steady for 4 years, with memories disappearing but still able to do most things. This last year has seen large losses in his abilities to take care of everyday functions, so he is definitely in the moderate stage and he's only 62.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My mom suffered from AD and passed away this year. She was an alcholic could this have caused her to be more suseptible to AD

A fellow caregiver answered...

My husband of 6 years, was a very smart business man, classy, intelligent and fun and interesting. At age 57 he retired from his company. Before he retired, vp were asking him if he was ok? They made him go see a nurelogist . My husband told me he the scans were concerning and scanned again. Also he was very low in B12. Now My husband now has problems remembering names, he has a hard time making decisions, he has a hard time using credit card machines. He has a hard to to understand directions. Also he cannot follow simple instruction .also his vision is poor. He use to appear so intelligent but now he appears to be like person with lower IQ (acting not very smart) he at times starts acting childlike. He would hide food from the children . He enjoy eating their candy, chips, and Ice cream. (if it wasn't theirs he would not taken their snacks) I have a hard time to communicate with my husband. Do I have any reasons to worry or might it be something I may have imagined. It is hard when you see the changed in the last year after knowing each othe for six years. Please give advise