Is There A Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

With the way things are today, you probably have some friends and family who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. And while you empathize with the difficulties they are encountering, you can’t help but notice that these two illnesses, although named differently, have similar manifestations and symptoms.  

 

According to Dr. Jonathan Graff-Radford of Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are two terms that many believe are synonymous.  It can’t be helped. These two illnesses really do seem similar especially to a common person. 

 

Dementia is a syndrome of a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life in the aspect of memory, the performance of daily activities, and communication abilities. Alzheimer's disease, on the other hand, is a progressive type of dementia.

 

It is not a disease, but it’s a catch-all term, which describes a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms impact a person's ability to perform daily activities independently. Common symptoms include:

 

·         Memory decline

·         Changes in thinking skills

·         Poor reasoning and judgment skills

·         Decreased attention and focus

·         Changes in language and communication skills

Types of Dementia

Vascular Dementia

It is the second and most common form of dementia. Approximately 1 in 10 people with dementia have this because there is not enough blood flowing to the brain. This may be due to damage to the blood vessels or blockages that lead to mini-strokes or bleeding of the brain. Doctors used to call it dementia that is multi-infarct or post-stroke.

 

There are no drugs approved to treat this kind of dementia, but can be preventable by keeping the brain healthy by avoiding smoking, eating vegetables, and exercising. 

 

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Lewy bodies are irregular clumps of protein called alpha-synuclein. They build up the part of your brain in your cortex which handles learning and memory. 

 

This form of dementia causes concentration issues, sleep problems, hallucinations, memory loss, and slow, unbalanced movements, similar to the signs of Parkinson's disease.

 

Normal-Pressure Hydrocephalus

The Alzheimer’s Association includes this build-up of spinal fluid in the brain as a form of dementia. Symptoms include slowed thinking, problems with decision making, trouble concentrating, behavior changes, difficulty walking, and loss of bladder control. It typically strikes adults in their 60s or 70s.  

 

Huntington's Disease

This is a genetic problem that affects the central part of your brain -- the area that helps you think, move, and show emotion. Symptoms generally start between the ages of 30 and 50, the first symptoms are involuntary movements of the arm, leg, head, face, the upper body. The changes in the brain often contribute to memory, attention, judgment, thinking, and planning issues. Individuals with Huntington's disease also have issues with depression, irritability, and rage.

 

Mixed Dementia

Often, more than one form of dementia causes a person to have brain changes. That is known as mixed dementia. You may have blocked or impaired blood vessels in your brain (vascular dementia), and at the same time brain plaque and tangles (Alzheimer's disease).

 

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

This form of dementia includes the loss of nerve cells in your brain's front and side areas. The main symptoms are changes in temperament and attitude, language difficulties. Symptoms usually appear around age 60, earlier than Alzheimer's disease usually starts. Types of frontotemporal dementia include behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD), primary progressive aphasia, Pick's disease, and corticobasal degeneration

 

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) 

This rare form of dementia occurs when a protein, called a prion, folds into an abnormal form and other prions begin to do the same thing. This damages brain cells, triggering a rapid mental decline. People with CJD also experience mood changes, confusion, twitchy or jerky movements, and walking troubles. Often, inherited disorder, but it may also occur for no apparent cause.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia. About 60% - 80% of people who have dementia have Alzheimer's. It's a progressive disorder, meaning it gets worse over time and typically affects people over the age of 65.

 

While most diseases are decreasing, according to the World Health Organization, surprising data indicates that Alzheimer's levels have significantly risen by 117% over the past 30 years.

 

According to the study of Alzheimer's Disease Research Program, it is also the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It's an inevitable brain degeneration that triggers the memory, learning, personality, and other disturbances, potentially leading to death from total brain damage.

 

About five million Americans aged 65 and older are believed to have Alzheimer's disease, their report further says. That figure could rise to more than 14 million by 2050.

There's currently no cure. 

 

Causes 

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease. This means that, over time, there is a progressive brain cell death.  A person with Alzheimer's has fewer nerve cells and connections.

 

Autopsies have shown that a person with Alzheimer's nerve tissue in the brain 

has tiny deposits, called plaques and tangles, that build upon the tissue. Among the dying brain cells, the plaques are found and made of a protein known as beta-amyloid.

 

The tangles occur in the cells of the nerves and are made of another protein called tau. 

Researchers do not fully understand why those changes are taking place. There are several different factors involved including:

 

·         Age. The risk of having Alzheimer’s gets higher as people age, and it's common with people over 65.

·         Gender.  Women suffer more often from the disease than men do.

·         Family history. People who have Alzheimer’s from their families are more likely to get it too.

·         Down Syndrome. It's not clear why, but people with this condition in their 30s and 40s frequently get Alzheimer's disease.

·         Head injury. Some studies suggest a link between Alzheimer's disease and a major head injury.

·         Health. High cholesterol levels and high blood pressure may also raise the risk.

 

Occasional loss of memory can be a natural part of aging, but forgetfulness is not really an Alzheimer’s Disease symptom. You can talk to your doctor though if the problem gets worse. Notice these top 5 subtle symptoms of Alzheimer’s:

 

·         Misplace objects and can't retrace steps

·         Memory loss that affects everyday life (unable to budget, drive to a location)

·         Difficulty planning or problem-solving

·         Taking more time to carry out normal daily tasks

·         Losing track of time

 

Medication 

Researchers don't yet know how to prevent Alzheimer's disease. It is undoubtedly scary when you or your loved one is diagnosed with it. Doctors may give a lot of prescriptions to fight it. 

 

The good news is the worldwide doctors and researchers have not stopped studying the causes of Alzheimer's disease and finding the cure to stop it right up to this very minute, and they are going to share it with you NOW. 

 

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Sources: 

1. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What's the difference?

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/alzheimers-and-dementia-whats-the-difference/faq-20396861

2. Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/difference-between-dementia-and-alzheimer-s 

3. Medications used to help treat Alzheimer’s disease

https://www.healthline.com/health/alzheimers-disease-drugs#medication-list

4. Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-causes-risk-factors

5. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What’s the difference?

https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-and-dementia-whats-the-difference#2

 

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