Myths and Misconceptions about Alzheimer’s Disease

Last time, I discussed the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and my upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Now I’d like to clear up some common misunderstandings about this terrible disease.
Myth: Alzheimer’s and dementia are the same.
Dementia is a general term that refers to a decline in mental ability severe enough to impact daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. That is, Alzheimer’s is a specific disease while dementia is not. If someone is exhibiting cognitive issues, it is important to have a neurological workup to determine which type of dementia it is.
Myth: You have to be “old” to suffer from Alzheimer’s.
People in their 50s, 40s, and even 30s can develop Alzheimer’s and exhibit symptoms. This is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that there are currently more than 200,000 people under the age of 65 with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. However, Alzheimer’s is indeed far more common among elders. One in nine Americans 65 and older has Alzheimer’s while 73% of victims are 75 years of age and older.
Myth: Alzheimer’s is caused by aluminum, artificial sweeteners, silver dental fillings, flu shots…
No, no, no, and no. Rumors about the cause of Alzheimer’s are virtually endless. In point of fact, Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain, caused by damage to neurons. The neurons damaged initially are in parts of the brain responsible for memory, language, and reasoning.
Myth: Alzheimer’s disease is not always fatal.
Sadly, Alzheimer’s does not leave survivors. It destroys brain cells and causes changes to memory, behavior, and bodily functions. It slowly robs a person of his or her identity, capacity to connect with others, think, talk, walk, eat, and more. Studies indicate that people age 65 and older survive an average of four to eight years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, yet some live as long as 20 years.
Myth: If you have Alzheimer’s, you will exhibit symptoms immediately.
Recent research indicates that changes to the brain caused by Alzheimer’s may occur 20 years or more before symptoms begin. This actually represents relatively “good” news because it shows there is a significant window of time to intervene in the progression of the disease. Future advances will likely identify effective methods to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. For example, advances in identifying biomarkers for Alzheimer’s will facilitate earlier detection and give victims time to address risk factors that could delay cognitive decline.
Myth: Treatments are available to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
While the FDA has approved drugs that temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms of Alzheimer’s in some cases, there is currently no treatment available to cure, delay, or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease itself.

This is why we need more research, and why I’m participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 24th in Nelson Memorial Park in Plymouth.  If you’d like to support the cause, you can do so hereThank you!
Until next time, take care….