Prognosis and Life Expectancy for Alzheimer's

Answers to Common Questions on Prognosis and Life Expectancy of Alzheimer's

Alzheimers Prognosis
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Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It's also a fatal condition, which means that a person will eventually die of Alzheimer's disease if he or she does not die of something else beforehand. 

Let's read more about the prognosis and life expectancy of a person living with Alzheimer's disease. This way, you are knowledgeable and know what to expect if you or a loved one are diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Is There a Cure for Alzheimer's Disease?

No, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease. But there are 5 FDA-approved medications to manage the symptoms of Alzheimer' disease. While these medications do not slow down the progression of the disease, they can help a person feel better and help with their day-to-day functioning in the earlier stages. There is also no medication or other therapy that can prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

What is the Average Life Expectancy for a Person with Alzheimer's Disease?

According to the Alzheimer's Association, the average life expectancy for a person age 65 years or older diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease is about 4 to 8 years after a diagnosis is made. However, some individuals with Alzheimer's live up to 20 years after the first signs emerge.

How long a person with Alzheimer's lives is highly dependent on the person's age at the onset of the disease — meaning the older the age of diagnosis, the less years they likely have to live.

So, for example, according to a 2009 study in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, a person diagnosed with Alzheimer's in their 90s can expect to live three years or less.

Having other health conditions, in addition to Alzheimer's, also affects a person's life expectancy. Those with multiple medical conditions tend to die sooner than those who have no other health conditions.

Overall though, it's still difficult for doctors to predict exactly how long a person with Alzheimer's has to live, since so many variables contribute to life expectancy. Regardless, it's important to understand that with time, a person with Alzheimer's disease will continue to develop more and more symptoms, and their condition will worsen, not get better.

How do People with Alzheimer's Disease Die?

People with Alzheimer's disease often die of a medical complication, such as pneumonia or the flu. However, Alzheimer's is fatal — if there are no other complications, the person will die when all bodily systems fail because of the disease.

What Does this Mean for Me or My Loved One?

Whether you are a caretaker, loved one, or patient, it's a good idea to discuss expected survival time with your doctor and healthcare team. While a difficult discussion, this can help with planning and creating reasonable expectations.

It's important to remember that your doctor can only make an informed prediction on life expectancy and prognosis — their prediction is an educated guess and not a hard and fast rule.



Alzheimer's Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures. Retrieved November 20th 2015. 

Alzheimer's Association. (2015). Stages of Alzheimer's. Retrieved November 20th 2015. 

Zanetti O, Solerte SB & Cantoni F. Life expectancy in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2009;49 Suppl 1:237-43.

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