Published on: November 28, 2015
by Women’s Brain Health Initiative:
True or false –
Despite an abundance of existing research, there is much we still don’t know about dementia. This lack of knowledge can create an environment of fear. A 2012 survey by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion attempted to measure that level of fear among Americans; they found that 44 percent of respondents said Alzheimer’s is the chronic disease they fear the most. In particular, the most feared aspect of the disease was being unable to care for oneself, cited by 68 percent of respondents, followed by losing memory of life and loved ones, cited by 32 percent.
Some of the fear around dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease in particular, stems from lack of knowledge when the truth is there is much we do know about this condition. Take this quiz to see how much you know about dementia and increase your knowledge. After all, knowledge is one of the best tools for alleviating feelings of fear and anxiety, and empowering yourself to take action, if necessary, for yourself or on behalf of a loved one.
TRUE. Dementia is an umbrella term used to
describe conditions in which various brain functions such as memory, thinking, language, planning and personality decline over time. There are many different kinds of dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most common; between 60 percent and 80 percent of people with dementia are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease. The next most common form is vascular dementia, which occurs when brain cells are deprived of oxygen; it accounts for up to 20 percent of dementia cases. Sometimes Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia occur at the same time; this is referred to as “mixed dementia.” Other diseases and syndromes that are considered dementias include: frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Lewy Body dementia, Huntington’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
FALSE. Dementia is not a normal part of aging. If it were, then all older adults would have it, which isn’t the case. Approximately half of the people aged 85+ are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia). Many seniors, however, live into their 90s or higher without ever developing dementia.
TRUE. Although Alzheimer’s disease is far more common among the
elderly, it does occasionally affect younger people. About five percent of diagnosed Alzheimer’s cases are among people under 65 years old; these patients are said to have early-onset or younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes people in their 30s and 40s are also affected.
FALSE. Family history is only one of many risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, so even if no one in your family has ever had the disease that does not mean you are necessarily immune. Research shows that having a parent, sibling or child with Alzheimer’s disease, increases your risk of developing the disease, however, having increased risk does not necessarily mean you will develop Alzheimer’s.
FALSE. Science has not yet determined a precise cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists believe that most people get Alzheimer’s due to a complex combination of genetic, lifestyle & environmental factors that impact the brain over time.
At this point in time, experts have only begun to identify risk factors for the disease, not a definitive cause.
7. There is a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
FALSE. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and a cure is not expected in the foreseeable future. Much research has been done but much more is needed. The publisher of this magazine, Women’s Brain Health Initiative, raises funds for research that focuses specifically on combating brain-aging diseases that affect women (because an astounding 70 percent of new Alzheimer’s patients will be women). For more information, or to donate, visit www.womensbrainhealth.org. It is our hope that more research can eventually lead to a cure.
FALSE. A certain amount of forgetfulness is normal as you age and almost 40 percent of people aged 65+ experience some form of memory loss. However, memory loss itself does not necessarily mean you have, or are developing, dementia. Sometimes dementia-like symptoms are caused by treatable conditions such as depression, drug interactions, excess use of alcohol, or vitamin deficiencies. Here are some examples of signs of normal aging versus potential dementia, to help you understand the differences. Please note that this is not meant to serve as a diagnostic tool.
Normal aging might include not being able to recall details of a conversation or event that took place a year ago, not being able to remember the name of an acquaintance, or occasionally having trouble finding words.
Signs of potential dementia might include not being able to recall details of recent conversations or events, not recognizing or knowing the names of family members, and frequent pauses and substitutions when finding words.
Talk to your family doctor if you are worried about your memory.
TRUE. Alzheimer’s patients benefit from early diagnosis in many ways, for example:
There is no single test that can say with 100 percent certainty,while someone is alive, that they have Alzheimer’s disease. Absolute confirmation of the diagnosis requires examination of brain tissue during an autopsy. However, patients can be diagnosed with up to 90 percent accuracy while alive through a medical evaluation that includes multiple components. This evaluation typically includes a thorough medical history, mental status testing, a physical exam, a neurological exam, and tests such as blood tests and brain imaging to rule out any other potential causes of dementia-like symptoms.
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