Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder of the brain in which the person’s ability to reason, to learn, and to remember things is gradually destroyed as the disease progresses. Eventually, the patient loses the ability to communicate or even to carry out tasks of daily living. Patients of this degenerative disease also undergo personality changes, such as fearfulness, suspiciousness, confusion, and dependency. Apart from this, this debilitating disease is also shrouded in myths and baseless allegations, all of which need to be cleared up.
Fact and fiction about Alzheimer’s disease
Fiction—If you experience memory loss, then you have Alzheimer’s.
Fact—Memory loss is experienced by almost all of us at some point, whether we are old or young. Forgetting keys or glasses is not Alzheimer’s. It is a cause for concern when the functioning of daily living activities and the ability to communicate are affected due to memory loss. Also, when the ability of reasoning and judgment are impaired, a doctor must be consulted.
Fiction—Alzheimer’s occurs only in the elderly.
Fact—Early onset Alzheimer’s can affect people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s too, and is usually due to genes passed on from one generation to another.
Fiction—Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal.
Fact—Alzheimer’s disease per se is not fatal, but statistics reveal that in the US it is the sixth leading cause of death. People suffering from the disease do live for 8-10 years post diagnosis or more. But there are no survivors. The symptoms and associated dementia can lead to death. For instance, in advanced stages sufferers can forget to chew and swallow their food, thus resulting in choking. Or they can forget to drink fluids and die of dehydration. Or due to loss of memory, they can wander off and become victims of accidents.
Fiction—Alzheimer’s can be completely treated.
Fact—There is currently no treatment to alter the effects of Alzheimer’s or cure the disease altogether. The available treatments or medication is to alleviate the symptoms associated with the disease. The FDA-approved medications for treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s include Razadyne or galantamine, Aricept or donepezil, Namenda or memantine, Cognex or tacrine, and Exelon or rivastigmine. The FDA has not approved any diet, supplement, or health regimen to improve or completely eradicate Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Fiction—Silver fillings, aluminum, aspartame, and flu shots cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Fact—To date, the cause, prevention, or cure of dementias, such as Alzheimer’s, have not been found even through studies that are scientifically designed. Therefore there is no truth in the myth that aluminum, aspartame, silver filings, or flu shots cause the disease. In fact, flu shots boost the immunity of the body, reducing the chances of contracting diseases in general. Thus, rumors that eating out of aluminum pots and pans and drinking via aluminum cans can cause Alzheimer’s are baseless and without proof.
Tips to preserve cognitive health
Being spiritually and socially active, solving puzzles, and other similar activities that challenge the brain reduce chances of disorders or at least delay them. Trauma to the brain must be avoided too.
Feelings of depression and anxiety must be recognized, and facts must be distinguished from fiction for a better understanding of Alzheimer’s.