Because they both affect the memory, it can be hard to differentiate between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s what you need to know to be able to distinguish the two:
What are dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?
Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms that impact everyday life, like impaired memory and thinking. Rather than a standalone disease, it is a way to explain symptoms someone is experiencing.
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia. Nearly 60-70 percent of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s, making it the most common form of dementia.
What causes dementia and Alzheimer's?
Dementia has many sources. It can be caused by medical illness, metabolic issues like thyroid problems, vascular diseases like strokes, or even infectious diseases that target brain cells — though that is a very rare type of dementia.
Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by plaque and protein building up in the brain, damaging regions that control thinking, memory, and reasoning.
Are the symptoms different?
The symptoms for dementia and Alzheimer’s are quite similar. Losing your keys or forgetting the name of that one actor from the 90s are not on the list.
Signs of dementia can include significant impairment of memory, communication, focus, reasoning, or visual perception. Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s symptoms include forgetting new information or losing track of facts you should be able to keep track of yourself.
If you’re experiencing any worrisome symptoms, you might want to speak with a medical expert.
Can you prevent or treat dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Lifestyle changes are key when it comes to preventing dementia, especially medical and vascular dementia. Choosing a diet or starting habits that lower blood pressure or cholesterol and control diabetes reduces risk of dementia.
Research has found that exercise, diet, cognitive activity, and social activity improve brain health and slow Alzheimer’s progression.
Currently, there are no treatments for dementia. There are medications that can alleviate the Alzheimer’s symptoms, but they lose their effectiveness over time.