Dementia is a growing concern in our world. Dementia statistics show there are more than 55 million people around the world living with it. Every year, there are an additional 10 million people diagnosed with dementia. Worldwide, up to 24 million people have Alzheimer's and dementia, with Alzheimer's being a specific disease type of dementia. With increasing age as one of the main risk factors and a growing number of people affected, it is important to be familiar with the early signs, dementia symptoms, behavior changes, and brain changes that can come with dementia and Alzheimer's disease as the disease progresses.
Below is a list of dementia and Alzheimers facts you may not have known about these two conditions, which can help you distinguish the difference between dementia and Alzheimers disease. The more you know, the more likely you may be to spot symptoms and signs in yourself or a loved one.
#1 Alzheimer’s Disease Is A Specific Type Of Dementia
Dementia is not a disease in itself; rather, dementia is a general term that describes a specific group of symptoms affecting cognitive abilities. Many other conditions and disorders have dementia as one of their symptoms, including mild cognitive impairment and more severe cognitive impairment. Dementia often involves declining memory, other thinking skills, and other cognitive abilities as the brain cells deteriorate, which can be a normal part of the aging process for some individuals. Some other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty following television shows or books
- Loss of the skills to do daily tasks
- Withdrawal from others
- Changes in behavior
- Trouble concentrating
- Frequent confusion
On the other hand, Alzheimer’s is a specific, progressive disease in the brain and the most common cause of dementia. In fact, it accounts for around 60-80% of cases. Some other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are:
- A tendency to forget important things
- Inability to get dressed properly
- Lack of hygiene
- Inability to manage money
- Inability to do everyday tasks like cooking or cleaning
- A tendency to lose one’s train of thought
- Trouble finding the right words to use
- Rapid mood swings and agitation
- Inability to tell directions and distances
- A tendency to get lost
- Trouble starting activities
- A tendency to forget how to behave around others
- Lack of attention
#2 The Causes Of Dementia Are Numerous
There are many different diseases that can cause the onset of dementia. However, it is the degradation of cells in the brain that tends to cause the condition. Whether it is from biological or external causes, cell damage is ultimately what leads to the development of the disorder. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases for those who:
- Have diabetes
- Are depressed
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Smoke cigarettes
- Have untreated high blood pressure during middle age
- Are obese or overweight
#3 Women Are Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s Disease More Than Men Are
#4 Young People Can Get Alzheimer’s Too
We may think of Alzheimer’s as a disease of the elderly, but up to 5% of Americans with Alzheimer’s (around 200,000) have the early-onset variety, in which symptoms start as early as age 30. The cause of this disease in young people is unknown, but many experts believe that it is genetic. Early-onset Alzheimer’s symptoms can differ from other types, and may include:
- Personality changes
- Paranoia, anxiety, and depression
- Avoidance of others
- Impulsive behavior
- Poor judgment
- Vision problems, such as difficulty seeing color and distances
- Trouble remembering things you just did
- A tendency to lose things
- Problems remembering things just learned
- A tendency to get lost
- Inability to make decisions
#5 Types Of Dementia
There are many different types of dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Alzheimer’s is the cause of most dementia cases, which is why they are so often mistaken for one another. The different types of dementia include:
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a disorder of the brain caused by a deficiency of a vitamin, such as thiamine or vitamin B1.
- Huntington’s Disease, or Huntington’s Chorea, is an inherited disease that causes mental, emotional, and physical symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Parkinson’s Disease is a common progressive degenerative disease of the nervous system that causes the nerve cells to die or break down. It typically starts with tremors in one or both hands.
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, or Hakim’s Syndrome, is a form of dementia that is caused by cerebral fluid building up in the brain.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a rare brain disease that tends to progress faster than any of the other types of dementia.
- Frontotemporal Dementia is another rare disease that typically affects the parts of the brain that control behavior, personality, and language.
- Lewy Body Dementia is a disease caused by deposits of alpha-synuclein, which is a protein that affects the chemicals in the brain. The signs are similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease with more frequent hallucinations and delusions.
- Vascular Dementia is caused by a decrease in blood flow in the brain that kills cells. The most common cause of vascular dementia is when a stroke blocks an artery in the brain.
- Mixed Dementia is characterized by someone having more than one type of dementia at the same time. For example, those with Alzheimer’s disease can also have Lewy Body Dementia.
#6 Gardening May Help
Studies have found that patients with any type of dementia can benefit from spending time in a garden. They do not have to be tending the garden, and it does not even have to be their garden for it to help them. In fact, just walking in a public garden or a park can be calming and relaxing. Many small studies have been done in the past decade in the United States as well as other countries that show a positive correlation between garden therapy and dementia. The patients’ levels of agitation and anxiety decreased after spending time in a garden, and they claim to find it relaxing.
#7 There Are Medications For Dementia
Some medications commonly prescribed for dementia can be effective in treating its symptoms. While there is no cure and no way to end Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, there are some medications that can help, such as those that control glutamate in your brain. In addition, cholinesterase inhibitors can be used to boost a person’s memory by increasing important chemicals in the brain needed for recollection. However, some types of dementia are not treated in the same way. For example, vascular dementia is treated by managing the cause of the disease, which is typically high blood pressure or thyroid disease.
#8 There May Be A Link Between Hearing Loss And Dementia
In the past few years, there have been many studies done to determine whether there is a link between dementia and hearing loss. Some of these studies have found that those with hearing loss are at a much higher risk of developing dementia. This may be an important finding as experts try to determine the cause of these links and find ways to treat hearing loss earlier. Experts believe that if hearing loss is treated right away, the chances of getting dementia may decrease.
#9 Dementia Consists Of More Than Just Memory Loss
Although dementia typically starts by affecting the patient’s short-term memory, many other significant symptoms can develop. Dementia can also cause problems with speech, thinking, and coordination. It can also impact behavior, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, and although it often starts as forgetfulness, it typically progresses to other issues, such as problems with sleeping, eating, and making decisions. Does Alzheimers kill? Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that can cause complications due to the decline of brain function. The various complications can lead to death. Alzheimer’s disease typically causes the brain to shrink, which affects more than just memory. Other common symptoms include:
- Changes in mood, such as sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, and loss of self-confidence
- Trouble determining distances or spatial cues
- Difficulties with speaking and remembering the correct words for things
- Difficulty with day-to-day activities, such as bathing, dressing, and cooking
- Problems with thinking things through or planning
- Inability to manage money
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble making decisions
- Inability to follow the storyline in television shows or movies
- Isolation or withdrawal from family and friends
#10 Caregivers May Be More Susceptible To Depression
Since caregivers often go through significant stress when caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they may be more susceptible to feeling overwhelmed. They may even develop depression or experience anxiety attacks. They can feel a great deal of pressure but not much reward, especially in the later stages of these conditions. It’s important for caregivers to seek appropriate mental health care for themselves when needed.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp
To help navigate the mix of emotions involved in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you might consider speaking with a licensed counselor. If leaving the house is impossible, you can speak with an online therapist at BetterHelp. You can connect with a counselor experienced with families caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This can be helpful for those who need to be at home frequently to care for their loved ones and don’t have much free time for therapy sessions.
The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
Online therapy can be beneficial for caregivers who are facing mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. In one study, researchers explored the efficacy of an internet-based intervention for family caregivers of people with dementia. Results showed that participants experienced reductions in their symptoms of anxiety and depression. The online-based interventions were also shown to be convenient and affordable, making care more available.
What is the main cause of dementia?
Alzheimer’s disease is the primary cause of dementia, with approximately 60-70% of worldwide dementia cases attributed to the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
What is the biggest difference between Alzheimer's and dementia?
Alzheimer’s and other dementias cause progressive loss of cognitive functioning, such as memory and abstract thinking skills, that eventually interfere with daily life. Dementia is a general condition for this loss of function, whereas Alzheimer’s and diseases like Parkinson’s disease and vascular dementia specify the type of dementia someone has. This means that someone with Alzheimer’s has dementia, but someone with dementia may not have Alzheimer’s disease.
What are the 7 stages of Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer’s dementia is often classified into seven distinct stages:
- Stage 1: Preclinical
The preclinical phase of Alzheimer’s disease characterizes the early stages of brain changes before symptoms appear. Someone may experience preclinical changes for around 10-15 years before symptoms arise.
Stage 2: Increasing forgetfulness
During the second stage of Alzheimer’s, people may experience forgetfulness similar to that of most older adults. This may include misplacing keys or briefly forgetting the names of people they don’t see often. However, during this stage, some loved ones may begin noticing symptoms.
Stage 3: Changes become noticeable
In the third stage, family members may notice increasing changes in memory that no longer appear to be a part of healthy aging. During this stage, people may experience increased trouble recalling words, find it hard to remember new information, and experience increasing difficulty at work or in social settings.
Stage 4: Difficulties beyond memory
At this stage, changes in the brain begin to impact other areas of cognition beyond memory. People may experience increased difficulty with organization, decision making, language, and basic math. At this point, memory worsens, and many people experience disruptions in their ability to perform daily tasks.
Stage 5: Reduced independence
Prior to stage five, many people are able to adjust their lifestyle to live independently without significant challenges. However, during stage five, people may begin requiring increased assistance with basic tasks. Hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and personality changes may appear.
Stage 6: Increased symptom severity
As someone progresses from stage five to stage six, it can become difficult to live alone and manage care without significant aid. Communication may become more challenging and limited, and independence will continue declining.
Stage 7: Worsening physical impairments
During the final stage of Alzheimer’s, people experience severe mental and physical limitations due to increasing brain cell loss. Assistance will be required more frequently for things like sitting, walking, using the restroom, bathing, eating, and swallowing. In stage seven, the body becomes increasingly vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia.
Is dementia hereditary?
In most cases, dementia is not solely hereditary. This means that if your parent or grandparent had dementia, you are not guaranteed to develop dementia. A number of factors impact your likelihood of developing dementia, including environmental factors, individual factors, and genetics. However, in very rare circumstances (less than 1% of cases), dementia can be directly inherited if you have certain deterministic genes.
How does dementia affect life?
Dementia characterizes a progressive loss of cognitive functioning. The ways in which it affects life depends on the individual. However, many people experience deteriorating social skills, independence, and decision making skills. Living with dementia can sometimes be frustrating, confusing, or frightening, but there are strategies and treatment options that can help those living with Alzheimer’s experience increased independence and quality of life.
Want to learn more? Here are five facts about Alzheimer’s and dementia:
- Alzheimer’s disease is named after Alois Alzheimer, a physician who first recognized the disease in 1906.
- The lifetime risk of developing dementia between age 65 and 100 is 32.8% in men and 45% in women.
- One of the primary risk factors for vascular dementia (the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s) is heart disease.
- People with Alzheimer’s and other dementias can often live independently and enjoy a lifestyle similar to their pre-diagnosis life for many years.
- Many people diagnosed with dementia experience stigma. Addressing misconceptions and finding supportive environments can help.
Understanding Alzheimer’s disease facts can help destigmatize the disease and spread awareness about early warning signs.
Can you prevent dementia?
Though there are no proven ways to prevent dementia, you can address some risk factors that are associated with them. Potentially modifiable lifestyle risk factors include:
- Sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity)
- Unmanaged hypertension (high blood pressure), high blood sugar, high cholesterol, uncorrected hearing loss, or depression
- Lack of sufficient quality sleep
- Lack of mental stimulation
- Head injuries
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Diets containing high amounts of processed foods, red meats, saturated fats, and refined sugar
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Tobacco use
Who gets dementia the most?
The largest risk factor for dementia is age. The average age of Alzheimer’s onset is 65 or older, with the risk of dementia doubling every five years after age 65.
Can Alzheimer’s be cured?
In 2020 and 2021, Alzheimer’s disease was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. While there currently is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, scientists are continually working to find ways to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s in clinical trials. In the meantime, there are treatment options available that can help.
For example, Alzheimer’s disease treated with medications such as aducanumab and lecanemab target beta-amyloid plaques in the brain (which cause Alzheimer’s), potentially slowing disease progression in some people. Other medications can be used successfully to address cognitive, behavioral, and psychological symptoms, which can improve function and quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, many people can effectively improve cognitive function, behaviors, and mental health with non-drug approaches, such as caretaker education, redirection, frequent social opportunities, building consistent routine, and activities such as art and exercise classes.
Is dementia more serious than Alzheimer's?
Dementia is a non-specific term for a condition characterized by progressive cognitive decline. There are several types of related dementias which cumulatively were the leading cause of death in the UK in 2022:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Lewy body dementias
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Down syndrome with alzheimer’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Mixed dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Korsakoff syndrome
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Posterior cortical atrophy
The speed at which dementia progresses depends on many factors, including the age of diagnosis, type of dementia, and individual factors. However, Creutzfeldt-Jakob tends to be a faster-progressing type of dementia, compared to Alzheimer’s or other dementias which often progress slowly over years. Rapidly progressive dementias (RPDs) can also be caused by certain autoimmune diseases, infections, vitamin deficiencies, and toxins.
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