Since there is no conclusive scientific proof at this time about what causes Alzheimer’s disease, it’s natural for people to come to their own conclusions. Here are a few of the more common “causes” that have surfaced recently in popular culture:
• Drinking out of aluminum cans
• Cooking in aluminum pots
• Using the artificial sweetener aspartame
• Receiving flu shots and other vaccinations
• Having amalgam dental fillings
There is no scientific proof linking any of these to Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with myths about causes, it’s important to be able to separate myth from fact regarding Alzheimer’s disease in general. Here are some of the most pervasive myths.
Myth: Memory issues are either: 1. an inevitable sign of aging, or 2. an inevitable sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
When it comes to memory issues, I often hear people chalk it up to aging, which minimizes its significance, or interpret any issue as a potential symptom of Alzheimer’s. To avoid either of these two extremes, it’s important to determine if the memory loss can be attributed to short-term or reversible reasons. Occasional, non-Alzheimer’s-related memory problems are normal and can happen for a variety of reasons such as stress, lack of sleep and medication side effects. Memory loss for those with Alzheimer’s is often more profound. It is not usual for a person with Alzheimer’s disease to lack the ability to drive or walk to a place they have known for a long time.
Myth: Dementia is the same as Alzheimer’s disease
It is not unusual to hear dementia and Alzheimer’s used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a more overarching term that refers to a group of symptoms that involve a loss of intellectual functions such as problem solving or recalling information.
Myth: Only older people can get Alzheimer’s
Many people associate this disease with older adults and believe it only affects persons who are over the age of 65; however, it can strike persons in their 30s, 40s and 50s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 200,000 people under the age 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Myth: There are treatments to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s
Medications are only able to temporarily slow the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms. There is no treatment to cure, delay or stop the progression of the disease.
Click here to learn more about the myths of Alzheimer’s on the Alzheimer’s Association Web site.
By Michelle Kutner, CSW, MSW, CTRS
Specialty Service Consultant