7 Frequent Misconceptions About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly diagnosed type of dementia suffered by people in the United States. There are four important facts that you need to understand about Alzheimer’s disease:
- As we mentioned, it is worth stressing Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia diagnosed in the U.S.A.
- Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that begins with mild memory loss and potentially can lead to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment in any meaningful manner.
- Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
- Alzheimer’s disease can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.
Unfortunately, myths abound about Alzheimer’s disease. The seven more prevalent misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Alzheimer’s is a normal part of the aging process
- Alzheimer’s and dementia are synonymous
- Alzheimer’s disease only affects a person’s brain
- Alzheimer’s disease only affects seniors
- Vaccines cause Alzheimer’s disease
- Developing Alzheimer’s is completely up to chance
- Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal
Alzheimer’s Disease Is a Normal Part of the Aging Process
A pervasive myth about Alzheimer’s disease is that it is merely a part of the normal aging process. This myth leads people to conclude that nothing can be done to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s because it is inevitable as we age. (As will be discussed in a moment, there do appear to be some steps that can be taken to stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and delay its progression.)
The fact is that Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of the normal aging process. Mild memory issues do occur as part of growing old. However, Alzheimer’s disease is much more than the existence of naturally occurring memory issues.
Alzheimer’s disease impacts about 5.8 million Americans. This number likely is somewhat higher because of people who have not formally been diagnosed with this disease.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Are Synonymous
Another misconception is that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are exactly the same conditions. In fact, dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of different types of conditions.
Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia. As mentioned at the start of this article, Alzheimer’s is the most commonly diagnosed type of dementia. Other conditions that fall under the comprehensive umbrella of dementia are:
- Lew Body dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Vascular dementia
Alzheimer’s Disease Only Affects a Person’s Brain
Yet another widespread myth about Alzheimer’s is that the disease only impacts a person’s brain. It certainly is true that Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain. However, while a disease of the brain, Alzheimer’s impacts and affects other parts of a person’s body as well.
Alzheimer’s disease can gradually impact a person’s muscles, making it difficult and ultimately impossible to work. The disease can also result in a lack of coordination. Alzheimer’s can cause weakness.
The disease can change an individual’s sleep cycle. It ultimately can result in a person experiencing seizures. In addition, in its last stage, Alzheimer’s disease can result in both urinary and fecal incontinence. A person can end up losing all control over his or her bowl, bladder, and ultimately both.
Alzheimer’s Disease Only Effects Seniors
Indeed, the vast majority of women and men with Alzheimer’s disease are seniors. However, Alzheimer’s as a disease is not confined only to individuals over the age of 60 or 65.
There is a derivation of the disease known as early-onset Alzheimer’s. early onset Alzheimer’s disease occurs in people in their 40s and 50s. Research is ongoing in regard to early onset Alzheimer’s. At this time, there are no firm answers as to why certain people develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. There is an indication that there is a genetic aspect to early onset Alzheimer’s for some (but far from all) individuals who develop this disease in their 40s and 50s.
Vaccines Cause Alzheimer’s Disease
Myths and misconceptions abound about vaccines. There are even myths and misconceptions that vaccines can cause Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there is no medical evidence whatsoever to connect vaccines of any kind (including the COVID vaccine) with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
The reality is that a growing number of research studies indicate that getting recommended vaccines are helpful in staving off the onset and delaying the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that people get all generally recommended vaccines. This includes the COVID-19 vaccine and associated boosters.)
Developing Alzheimer’s Disease is Completely Left Up to Chance
Many people erroneously believe that developing Alzheimer’s disease is completely up to chance. These individuals believe that if you’re destined to get Alzheimer’s, you are going to get the disease.
The truth is that developing Alzheimer’s is not completely a matter of chance or bad luck. Researchers now believe that there are some steps a person can take to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or at least delay the development of the disease. These tactics include:
- Regular exercise
- Healthy (brain-friendly) diet
- Healthy blood pressure
- Not smoking
A research study by the University of Cambridge concludes that about one-third of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease could have been prevented in the first instance. The study identifies what researchers at Cambridge have come to consider are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease:
- Lack of exercise
- Poor education
Alzheimer’s Disease is Not Fatal
Finally, a persistent and widespread falsehood associated with Alzheimer’s is that the disease is not fatal. In fact, Alzheimer’s is classified as a potentially or eventually fatal disease. Medical professionals advise that the cognitive and physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease combine to create health complications that ultimately can prove fatal.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease is more prone to develop certain other diseases, conditions, or ailments. As a result of the cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a person is not able to convey information effectively about the symptoms he or she is experiencing.
A common Alzheimer’s complication that can result in death is pneumonia. Because of an inability to swallow correctly because of progressive Alzheimer’s disease, food or drink can enter a person’s lungs. An individual can develop pneumonia as a result, a condition that can prove fatal. By understanding the common misperceptions associated with Alzheimer’s, you put yourself in a better position to accurately understand the disease. This is vital for your own health and wellness as well as for a loved one in your life who might have Alzheimer’s disease.