Harvard Mental Health Letter

New diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer's disease

Experts hope the guidelines will improve diagnosis and foster research.

The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association has published new guidelines for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. This is the first update since the original guidelines were created in 1984.

The guidelines include several significant changes. First, they describe three disease stages: asymptomatic (preclinical), thinking difficulties (mild cognitive impairment), and dementia (Alzheimer's). This is the first formal recognition of what research has suggested for several years now — that Alzheimer's disease evolves gradually over many years and that physiological changes in the brain occur a decade or more before noticeable symptoms such as memory loss or behavioral changes.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »