A common misconception in the health world is to use the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia interchangeably but do the two words mean the same thing? The answer is no. Dementia is a broad term representing several forms of disease including alcohol-related and Parkinson’s dementia. Accounting for the larger percentage (60-80%) of cases observed in the United States, Alzheimer’s, is a worldwide known form of dementia.
A decline in mental function that is non-reversible is the scientific definition of dementia; this term encompasses all diseases that lead to a drastic change in the ability to reason, memory loss, and changes in personality. Dementia is primarily caused by damage to brain cells residing in specific regions of the brain, preventing efficient communication between these cells. Each region in the brain is responsible for a specific task such as memory, communication, and behavior. As the cells are damaged, they lose the ability to perform their functions, leading to the loss of an individual’s ability to perform basic human tasks. Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia, typically observed in individuals 65 or older leads to the complete loss of memory and critical thinking skills. This does not mean younger individuals are not at risk, approximately 200,000 Americans have early-onset Alzheimer’s. Early in the diagnosis, short term memory loss is observed but as the disease advances more severe symptoms begin to show. Due to the progressive nature of the disease, those affected eventually lose the ability to carry out simple daily tasks such as brushing their teeth, chewing/swallowing, and walking.
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For more information on this topic, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association page (link down below).