What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?

Early-Onset Alzheimer's


Nobody wants to get Alzheimer’s disease. Most of us think of this dreaded condition as something that happens only when a person is elderly, but this is not the case. Alzheimer’s disease can also strike younger people aged 30 to 64. When someone younger than 65 years of age is diagnosed with the condition it is called early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It may also be called younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, the number of younger people being diagnosed is on the rise.


When someone younger than 65 years of age is diagnosed with the condition it is called early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, the number of younger people being diagnosed is on the rise. Click To Tweet


Early-onset, or younger-onset, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that affects your memory, thinking, and behavior. It is generally characterized by the same symptoms that appear in late-onset disease, including. Some of the early signs include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble finding the right word
  • Difficulty with basic problem-solving, such as paying bills or following a familiar recipe
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Vision problems
  • Asking the same questions over and over
  • Trouble completing daily tasks
  • Losing things
  • Poor judgment
  • Social isolation
  • Changes in mood or personality

As the disease progresses, symptoms typically become more severe, and it eventually interferes with daily life. Signs of advanced disease include:

  • Severe memory loss
  • Increased confusion
  • Marked moodiness and changes in behavior
  • Growing suspicion about family, friends, and caregivers
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Trouble walking

Despite these similarities, there are some differences between early-onset and late-onset Alzheimer’s. A 2019 study shows that early-onset Alzheimer’s is typically more aggressive, has a greater genetic component, is more commonly seen with traumatic brain injuries, has greater delays in diagnosis, and involves less memory impairment but more cognitive issues.


A frightening trend is the younger age at which Alzheimer’s is emerging. A growing number of younger Americans are being diagnosed with either early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In 2017, approximately 131,000 individuals aged 30 to 64 received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. This represents an alarming 200% increase from 2013-2017 in this age group.

Other research estimates that 5%-6% of all people with Alzheimer’s disease have the early-onset form. Considering about 6.5 million Americans are living with the condition, this would put the number of those with early-onset Alzheimer’s closer to 325,000-390,000.

Women are more likely to be impacted by the condition, with females making up 58% of people with early-onset Alzheimer’s, according to the BCBS Health Index mentioned earlier. And the average age of a person living with either early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is 49. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to be aware of the early signs of the disease.


Getting an accurate diagnosis is critical. However, since early-onset Alzheimer’s is less common than the late-onset form, is it frequently misdiagnosed, according to research in the International Journal of Psychiatric Medicine. Physicians don’t typically think of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia when younger patients complain of forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, or confusion. In some cases, you may be told that your symptoms are related to stress, depression, perimenopause, or menopause.

A comprehensive evaluation that includes brain imaging is critically important in getting an accurate diagnosis. SPECT, which measures blood flow and activity in the brain, can help determine if there are changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease or if another underlying issue may be causing symptoms.


Getting a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s can be devastating and is associated with mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, agitation, and trouble sleeping. Depression, in particular, is quite common in Alzheimer’s disease, and some research suggests that it is a risk factor for the condition. In fact, statistics from the BCBS Health Index show that 57% of people diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease filled a prescription for antidepressants in the year prior to their diagnosis. In 40% of cases, people were diagnosed with behavioral or cognitive changes in the 12 months leading up to their diagnosis.

Estimates on the rates of depression in Alzheimer’s vary widely. A meta-analysis in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 14.8% of people with Alzheimer’s disease experience major depressive disorder while other statistics estimate that up to 50% of individuals with Alzheimer’s experience symptoms of depression.

What is certain is that there is a strong emotional effect on younger people with the disease. A 2022 study in Neurological Sciences concluded that anxiety and depression are typically more severe in early-onset Alzheimer’s. This may be due in part to changes in the brain as well as the psychological toll of being diagnosed at a younger age.

Younger people may feel especially stigmatized about their diagnosis or may be ashamed to talk about it. Individuals under the age of 65 who do decide to share their diagnosis with others may find that certain friends, colleagues, or workmates don’t believe them. Or they may downplay the seriousness of the diagnosis, which amplifies emotional distress.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, it’s important to seek professional help for any mental health symptoms that arise. With proper treatment, a person may experience a better quality of life.


Early-onset Alzheimer’s can impact every area of your life. It is common for people with this form of dementia to experience relationship problems, difficulties, and trouble at home. Educating family members, employers, and others about the disease and your potential limitations can help manage expectations.

However, a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s should be a wake-up call to adopt a brain-healthy lifestyle. By incorporating a memory rescue program including a healthy diet, brain-directed nutraceuticals, and lifestyle changes, you may support memory and see improvements in quality of life.

Memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

1 Comment »

  1. WHAT is causing this ???

    Comment by Maure C Briggs — April 28, 2023 @ 4:41 AM

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