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Alzheimer's report stresses early diagnosis, care

(CNN) -- Although there's no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, it can be reliably diagnosed and effectively treated, according to new guidelines announced this week.

The guidelines, culled from more than 1,000 studies of the disease, are featured in the May 8 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"We were able to make recommendations that have good evidence behind them that may change behaviors in treating patients with dementia and specifically Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. James C. Stevens, co-chairman of the Dementia Guidelines Project of the American Academy of Neurology.

As many as 4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and the number is expected to reach 14 million in 50 years. It affects 10 percent of people over 65 and almost half of those over 85.

The guidelines note that Alzheimer's can be reliably diagnosed through a variety of tests, including a neurological exam, and early diagnosis can bring more effective medication and care options.

They also note that medication can improve people's quality of life and cognitive functions, particularly for people with mild to moderate symptoms.

The guidelines point to a list of 10 warning signs developed by the Alzheimer's Association, which include memory loss affecting job skills, difficulty performing familiar tasks and problems with language.

While the guidelines were designed for physicians, there's also a summary to help patients and caregivers.

"Research shows learning about Alzheimer's disease is one of the best ways to help patients and their families," said Bill Thies of the Alzheimer's Association said in a statement.

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American Academy of Neurology
Alzheimer's Association

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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