Myths & Misconceptions About Alzheimer's
As with many health disorders or diseases, there are myths and misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease. Misinformation can literally be deadly and can also delay diagnosis or treatment, so it's helpful to be informed. Knowing what’s true and what’s not can provide you with the tools to talk with your doctor honestly about symptoms you might be experiencing and any concerns you might have. The more factual information you have, the better you can participate in taking care of your own health.
Myth: Alzheimer’s & dementia are the same thing.
Fact: While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, the two disorders are not necessarily the same. Dementia is a general term for the loss of cognitive functioning and behavior that is significant enough to impact one’s daily life.1 The types of dementia can vary: Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, multiple strokes, and other brain diseases. Alzheimer’s disease is a very specific kind of dementia.
Myth: Everyone has memory loss as they get older, it’s natural.
Fact: Yes, as you get older, it’s normal to have occasional memory problems – but not to the extent of memory loss that is evident in Alzheimer’s disease. Occasional memory problems are not the same as the brain cell loss that happens in Alzheimer’s disease. If your memory loss impacts everyday life or activities, that might be a sign that it’s something more than general aging. If this happens, see your doctor. Memory impairment may be caused by a variety of things, including vitamin deficiencies or medication side effects, so finding the cause is important in order for appropriate treatment.2
Myth: Only elderly people get Alzheimer’s.
Fact: While the majority of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65, it can be diagnosed in one’s 30s, 40s, or 50s. Approximately 5% of those with Alzheimer’s disease have early-onset Alzheimer’s.3
Myth: Aluminum cans, pots, & pans can cause Alzheimer’s.
Fact: This myth arose in the 1960s and 1970s, but no study has ever found a link between exposure to everyday sources of aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.2
Myth: Aspartame is a cause of Alzheimer’s.
Fact: Aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in diet sodas, Nutrasweet, and Equal, has not been found to cause Alzheimer’s disease or memory loss, despite more than 100 studies on it.2
Myth: Flu shots can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Fact: There was a theory that flu shots increased one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but that doctor has since had his license suspended.2 There is no increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease associated with the flu shot.
Myth: Silver dental fillings are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
Fact: There is no association between having silver dental fillings and Alzheimer’s disease. This myth likely has origins because in “silver” fillings, there is a little bit of mercury. However, studies have been done and there is no link showing any risk of silver fillings and Alzheimer’s disease.2
Myth: Alzheimer’s is not fatal. There are ways to stop the progression of the disease.
Fact: Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease. It destroys brain cells, causing an eventual inability to perform everyday functions.2 As of right now, there is no treatment available to stop the progression of the disease. However, with intense scientific research efforts, there is hope for a cure.
If you have any questions about Alzheimer’s disease, talk to your doctor. There’s a lot of information floating around, and it’s always best to make sure you have accurate information.
What myth of misconception about Alzheimer's have you experienced or witnessed yourself?