Alzheimer’s is the number one cause of dementia today, particular among older adults, and the number of cases diagnosed each year is on the rise. This has led to some persistent myths and misunderstandings when it come to this devastating disease. If only all of the following were untrue.
Common Facts and Fictions Regarding Alzheimer’s Disease
- Forgetting the day of the week means you have Alzheimer’s.
Not necessarily. Actually, it’s not uncommon for someone to get temporarily confused about the day of the week – particularly as they age. As long as they can figure it out and not remain confused, this alone should not make you worry about the possibility of Alzheimer’s.
- Most dementia is due to Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, this one is true. In fact, 60 to 80 percent of those suffering from dementia today do in fact have Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s is a normal part of aging.
Not really. While increasing age is the highest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and the majority of people who suffer from the disease are 65 or older, approximately 200,000 people in the US alone suffer from early-onset Alzheimer’s, which occurs in those younger than 65. And not everyone who grows old will develop dementia, let alone Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s always gets worse.
Unfortunately, this is another true statement. The very nature of the disease is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually increase and worsen over time.
- Alzheimer’s is a deadly disease.
This statement is also true. Currently, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the US, and the average lifespan of someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is only eight years – although the actual range varies greatly, from as little as four years to as many as twenty.
- Aluminum causes Alzheimer’s.
In the 1960s and 1970s aluminum was thought to be a possible cause of Alzheimer’s, leading to concern over the use of aluminum pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids, and even antiperspirants. Research studies, however, have failed to confirm any relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer’s.
- Artificial sweeteners cause Alzheimer’s.
No again. While concerns about the effects of the artificial sweetener aspartame, marketed as Nutrasweet and Equal, were raised, according to the FDA, no scientific evidence has been found to support the claim that aspartame is in any way linked to Alzheimer’s.
- Flu shots increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Another fiction. In fact, several studies have suggested that getting a flu shot or other vaccine actual leads to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Silver fillings can lead to Alzheimer’s.
Another popular fiction. After a number of research studies, public health agencies including the US Public Health Service, World Health Organization (WHO), and the FDA all agree that the use of amalgam metal, or “silver,” fillings is perfectly safe and is not a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s.
- There are effective treatments for Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, this is yet another myth. While there are medications approved to help with some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, particularly in the early stages, there is currently no treatment available that will actually stop or even slow the progress of the actual disease.
Luckily, there are multiple resources and continuing research on Alzheimer’s disease. There are also strong support networks and many in-home services available to those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. If you are dealing with the impact of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s it’s important that you reach out for the help you need!