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5 Myths about Alzheimer’s

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When a loved one begins to experience memory impairment, it can be difficult to know what to do. Knowing how to recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s can be very helpful. While Alzheimer’s has been recognized as a disease as early as 1906 when Dr. Alois Alzheimer identified symptoms in his patient’s brain, research continues to evolve as scientists and doctors search for a cure. We know much more today about memory care and memory impairment than we knew twenty years ago, yet there are still many misconceptions about Alzheimer’s that may cause confusion.

1. Alzheimer’s is hereditary.

Alzheimer’s is caused by a myriad of reasons, one of which is genes. Some people are predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s if they have a first-degree relative (brother, sister, or parent) who has the disease. However, that is not always the case. Alzheimer’s can be caused by genetic mutations, by lifestyle and environmental factors, and other variants. Causes are still being studied.

2. I’ve noticed I’ve been more forgetful lately. That must mean I have Alzheimer’s.

While some memory loss is common as we age, certain signs may indicate that a person’s memory loss is caused by something more serious. If you misplace your keys and aren’t able to retrace your steps to find them or you can’t recall what season it is, never mind know what day it is, you might want to schedule an appointment with your doctor to find out if there’s an underlying cause of your memory loss.

3. I can’t die from Alzheimer’s.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s at this time, and the disease inevitably leads to death. As brain function deteriorates, patients lose the ability to walk, sit, and swallow, making them more prone to life-threatening falls, malnutrition, pneumonia, dehydration, and other potential issues.

4. Games like crossword puzzles or trivia can help slow down or prevent the onset of dementia.

Research has proven that participating in exercise, healthy diets, and mental stimulation can slow down or prevent the onset of brain disease. Recent research indicates that while mentally-stimulating games do not necessarily prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s, they do help slow down the progression of the disease.

5. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are one and the same.

Dementia is not actually a disease; it is a general term that describes a group of symptoms caused by disorders of the brain. Diagnoses that fall under this umbrella include Korsakoff syndrome, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s, among others.

 

While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be frightening, learning the facts about what to look for and what to expect can help you and your loved one navigate through the various stages of the disease. Many excellent resources exist on the internet, including Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and National Institute on Aging, as well as countless books. In addition, your healthcare provider can provide you with any answer you may need to help you along the journey.