Alzheimer’s: Myth vs. Reality

Alzheimer’s. No one wants it. And for good reason, because the disease eats up your memory and severely clouts your ability to think clearly. The US, and the rest of the western world, has a growing aging population, which means we are only witnessing a rise in the number of people developing this disease.

At the same time, there is so much false information surrounding Alzheimer’s that awareness and prevention efforts are significantly hindered. This article seeks to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Here are some of the most common Alzheimer myths most people hold to be true:

Alzheimer’s Can be Treated

It is wrong to be pessimistic, but at the same time we should not instill in ourselves false positivity. There is no treatment for Alzheimer’s at this time. None. Nothing for delaying it, and nothing to stop its progress once it is diagnosed. Yes, there are medications which can slow down symptoms, but this is only a short-term treatment that lasts for 1 year maximum.

Dementia=Alzheimer’s

While Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, the two terms are not synonymous. You can have dementia and not Alzheimer’s, and vice-versa. You see, dementia is a general term used to denote changes in brain function that result in loss of memory. Alzheimer’s is just one of the 70 forms of dementia, which include Pick’s Disease and Parkinson’s as well.

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Aluminum Causes Alzheimer’s

A couple of decades ago, it was being suggested that exposure to aluminum can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The theory went that when cooking in pots and pans made from aluminum or when you drink from cans, you can damage your brain function. However, there is no evidence to substantiate this claim.

You Can Expect to Grow Old with Alzheimer’s

You can avoid exposure to aluminum, but how do you stop yourself from aging? However, just like the aluminum myth, there is a misconception that Alzheimer’s is a natural part of aging as if you are bound to get the disease past the age of 60. To begin with, it is true that old age brings with it memory issues. However, there is a world of a difference between forgetting a person’s name and having your brain cells malfunction to the point where you feel lost in your own world.

You cannot diagnose Alzheimer’s on your own, as it is hard to distinguish between memory issues that result from aging and memory issues that result from a severe loss of brain function. You can acquaint yourself with symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but ultimate it is the physician who can tell whether you have the disease or not. Sometimes, you may be experiencing memory problems because of other factors like side effects of a medicine. Other times, you may have another form of dementia but not Alzheimer’s that is causing issues with your memory.

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Also note that while it is usually the 65 and older segment of the population that contracts the disease, you can also get early-onset Alzheimer’s before this age as well. This is rare, but still a possibility.

Exercise Prevents Alzheimer’s

Finally, many people advance the idea that if you look after your diet, exercise regularly, and do some mental exercises (like reading and writing), you can prevent Alzheimer’s. While it is true that all these things contribute to a healthy old age, this is not a formula for preventing Alzheimer’s, or any form of dementia for that matter. Athletes and academics have been known to contract Alzheimer’s while junk food lovers have been known to have their memories intact in their old age. But this is not to say exercise and diet don’t help. You should engage in these healthy pursuits, for studies have shown that they are linked to lower odds of getting Alzheimer’s.

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