Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

A class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors helps to restore communication between brain cells. These drugs may slow intellectual decline in some people with mild to moderate AD. They work by increasing the brain's levels of acetylcholine.

Another medication has been shown to stabilize memory in people with moderate to severe AD. It is the first in a new class of medications called NMDA receptor antagonists.

Psychotherapy techniques can be used to help people with AD. These techniques may include reality orientation and memory retraining.

Medications may be given to relieve depression and calm agitated behavior.

As much as possible, AD patients should:

  • Follow a regular exercise routine

  • Maintain normal social contacts with family and friends

  • Continue intellectual activities

Patients and their families should take advantage of community resources and support groups. They should discuss any safety concerns, especially driving, with the patient's doctor.

Several nonprescription products claim to improve mental function. But the scientific evidence to support this claim is weak. Check with your doctor before taking any nonprescription medication.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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