Alzheimer's researchers are pushing for the disease to be redefined so that treatment can begin years earlier than under current practices.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and can currently be conclusively diagnosed only with an autopsy. It already affects more than 26 million people around the world, and this number is expected to triple by 2050.
"The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are progressive mental deterioration characterized by an inability to carry out daily activities, a loss of cognitive functions, and a loss of memory functions," writes Tom Bohager in his book Everything You Need to Know About Enzymes.
"Extensive research studies indicate that the causes of Alzheimer's disease can include genetic factors, age, environmental factors, chronic exposure to aluminum and/or silicon, and increased oxidative damage due to long-term toxic exposure."
Dementia can be largely prevented through diet and lifestyle, but cannot currently be cured, but some drugs have been developed that attempt to slow its progression. Many of these drugs have limited effectiveness in the later stages of the disease, however, when symptoms have become severe.