At Novo Nordisk, we are acting on our purpose to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases by expanding our commitment in areas of high unmet need, including Alzheimer’s disease. This is a disease that impacts millions of people worldwide,1 and we welcome you to learn more about its causes, symptoms and how to support a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, while also discovering our research and development efforts to help address the unmet medical need in this disease area.

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys a person’s memory, thinking skills and other cognitive functions.1,2 It is a progressive disease, which means that it worsens over time, eventually leaving those affected with the disease unable to carry out simple daily activities.

These changes in memory and cognitive functions are due to nerve cells (called neurons) in the brain becoming damaged and destroyed.1,2 A healthy brain contains tens of billions of neurons,3 whose main function is to transmit information between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to the muscles and organs of the body.4  In Alzheimer’s disease, damage becomes widespread as nerve cells stop functioning and die, thereby disrupting the communication between neurons.1

Initially, cognitive decline that leads to symptoms, such as memory loss, are often mistaken for normal signs of ageing.1,5 Therefore, it is important to discuss with your doctor any early signs and symptoms that you suspect could be unrelated to normal ageing and due to early Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease develops along a continuum6

Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease



Years before any symptoms appear, Alzheimer’s disease begins with subtle changes in the brain. This is called the ‘preclinical’ phase of Alzheimer’s disease. Signs of these changes can only be detected with special scans of the brain and the fluid surrounding it, called the cerebrospinal fluid.

Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease



Years before any symptoms appear, Alzheimer’s disease begins with subtle changes in the brain. This is called the ‘preclinical’ phase of Alzheimer’s disease. Signs of these changes can only be detected with special scans of the brain and the fluid surrounding it, called the cerebrospinal fluid.

Alzheimer’s disease can develop in the brain before typical symptoms of dementia emerge

Alzheimer’s disease can develop in the brain before typical symptoms of dementia emerge

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)



In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, people can start to have mild problems with their memory, thinking abilities, or mood. The changes in learning and memory are usually not serious enough to interfere with a person’s daily life and independence, or work. But families and friends may notice subtle changes – such as forgetting names of friends or appointments, losing keys or being more likely to get lost in traffic. These early symptoms are often mistaken for normal signs of ageing.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)



In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, people can start to have mild problems with their memory, thinking abilities, or mood. The changes in learning and memory are usually not serious enough to interfere with a person’s daily life and independence, or work. But families and friends may notice subtle changes – such as forgetting names of friends or appointments, losing keys or being more likely to get lost in traffic. These early symptoms are often mistaken for normal signs of ageing.

Losing glasses all the time

Losing glasses all the time

Lapses in memory

Reflections based on real patient and carepartner experiences

I was teaching a graduate level class and I had to continually look up stuff that I used to know without looking it up. That bothered me.

Losing glasses all the time

Lapses in memory

Reflections based on real patient and carepartner experiences

I was teaching a graduate level class and I had to continually look up stuff that I used to know without looking it up. That bothered me.
Losing glasses all the time

Mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease



As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, you may start to notice considerable changes to a person’s memory, thinking abilities, and behaviour that impact their daily life. Known as Alzheimer’s dementia, someone with mild symptoms may still be able to function independently in many areas – such as working or being part of social activities – but they are likely to require some assistance to maximise independence and remain safe.

Mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease



As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, you may start to notice considerable changes to a person’s memory, thinking abilities, and behaviour that impact their daily life. Known as Alzheimer’s dementia, someone with mild symptoms may still be able to function independently in many areas – such as working or being part of social activities – but they are likely to require some assistance to maximise independence and remain safe.

Difficulties parking the car

Difficulties parking the car

Getting lost on the way home


Reflections based on real patient and carepartner experiences

It is an area where I had lived, for that point for 25 years… I totally knew the area and knew the neighbourhoods and I couldn’t find my way…It’s like I had never been there before.

Getting lost on the way home


Reflections based on real patient and carepartner experiences

It is an area where I had lived, for that point for 25 years… I totally knew the area and knew the neighbourhoods and I couldn’t find my way…It’s like I had never been there before.

Moderate dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease



With worsening Alzheimer’s dementia, people usually grow more confused and forgetful, and may need more help with everyday activities and self-care. They may find it more difficult to communicate with others and perform routine tasks, and you may also notice significant changes in their personality and behaviour, such as being restless, agitated, or having outbursts of aggression.

Moderate dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease



With worsening Alzheimer’s dementia, people usually grow more confused and forgetful, and may need more help with everyday activities and self-care. They may find it more difficult to communicate with others and perform routine tasks, and you may also notice significant changes in their personality and behaviour, such as being restless, agitated, or having outbursts of aggression.

Needs help with getting dressed

Needs help with getting dressed

Unable to bathe alone


Reflections based on real patient and carepartner experiences

I need to be with my father when he leaves the house. He needs help most of the time with cooking, writing, and I make sure he takes his pills everyday from his pill box.

Unable to bathe alone


Reflections based on real patient and carepartner experiences

I need to be with my father when he leaves the house. He needs help most of the time with cooking, writing, and I make sure he takes his pills everyday from his pill box.

Severe dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease



Those who are in the most severe stage of Alzheimer’s dementia need help with everyday activities and will likely require around-the-clock care. In this stage, damage in the brain becomes especially apparent on the patients’ physical health – eventually robbing the patient’s ability to move and swallow, leaving a person bed-bound and unable to eat, drink, and communicate coherently.

Severe dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease



Those who are in the most severe stage of Alzheimer’s dementia need help with everyday activities and will likely require around-the-clock care. In this stage, damage in the brain becomes especially apparent on the patients’ physical health – eventually robbing the patient’s ability to move and swallow, leaving a person bed-bound and unable to eat, drink, and communicate coherently.

Requires help with walking

Requires help with walking

Cannot recognise even the closest of family


Reflections based on real patient and carepartner experiences

She was no longer the same mother due to the disease. Alzheimer’s steals the person’s personality.

Cannot recognise even the closest of family


Reflections based on real patient and carepartner experiences

She was no longer the same mother due to the disease. Alzheimer’s steals the person’s personality.

Though you may hear these terms being used together, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not the same thing.

Dementia is not a specific disease, but a general term describing a group of symptoms that over time will impact memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities.1,7

While dementia has many causes, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia causes globally.1,5 Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can show symptoms of dementia, and this is known as Alzheimer’s dementia. However, not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s disease.1

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can progress slowly over several years, and they are sometimes mistaken for normal signs of ageing.1,5 As a consequence, some people in the early stages of disease may not realise that they are experiencing symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease and therefore delay seeing a doctor.1,5

So, what are some of the most common early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease? 5,9,10
 

1. Forgetting recent conversations or events

2. Misplacing items

3. Forgetting the names of places and objects

4. Trouble thinking of the right word

5. Asking questions repetitively

6. Showing poor judgment or difficulty in making decisions

7. Mood changes, such as increasing anxiety or agitation
 

While we have outlined some of the differences in the resource below, it can still be hard to tell apart normal ageing and early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. If you or someone you know are concerned about experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, talk to your doctor.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease,5 though today’s therapies can still help treat symptoms and improve quality of life for those living with the disease.1,2 In 2021, an intravenous (IV) treatment was approved in the U.S. for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease with further evidence needed to confirm its clinical benefit to treat symptoms.11

At Novo Nordisk, we are entering phase 3 development in Alzheimer’s disease to advance the search for a life-changing treatment for those living with this disease and their loved ones.

Explore our ambitious R&D pipeline

1. 2021 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimers Dement. 2021;17(3):327-406. doi:10.1002/alz.12328


2. Hung SY, Fu WM. Drug candidates in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. J Biomed Sci. 2017;24:47. doi:10.1186/s12929-017-0355-7

3. Azevedo FAC, Carvalho LRB, Grinberg LT, et al. Equal numbers of neuronal and nonneuronal cells make the human brain an isometrically scaledup
primate brain. J Comp Neurol. 2009;513(5):532-541. doi:10.1002/cne.21974

4. Neurons: What are they and how do they work? Published December 7, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320289

5. Gauthier S, Rosa-Neto P, Morais J, Webster C. World Alzheimer Report 2021: Journey through the Diagnosis of Dementia. London, England:
Alzheimer’s Disease International; 2021. https://www.alzint.org/resource/world-alzheimer-report-2021/

6. Aisen PS, Cummings J, Jack CR, et al. On the path to 2025: understanding the Alzheimer’s disease continuum. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2017;9:60.
doi:10.1186/s13195-017-0283-5

7. Alzheimer’s Association. What is dementia? Accessed December 13, 2021. https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

8. World Health Organisation. Dementia. WHO factsheets. Accessed December 13, 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia

9. National Institute on Aging. NIH. What are the signs of Alzheimer’s disease? Accessed December 13, 2021. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/whatare-
signs-alzheimers-disease

10. Alzheimer’s Association. 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Accessed December 13, 2021. https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs

11. FDA. FDA’s decision to approve new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. FDA. Published online July 6, 2021. Accessed February 2, 2022. https://
www.fda.gov/drugs/news-events-human-drugs/fdas-decision-approve-new-treatment-alzheimers-disease

12. Division UNP. World Population Prospects 2019. 2021.

13. Alzheimer’s Society. Dementia UK Second Edition. Available from: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/59437/1/Dementia_UK_Second_edition-Overview.pdf Last accessed: July 2021.