With National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month kicking off November 1, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing information to dispel common falsehoods about Alzheimer’s disease to help individuals know the warning signs, understand the importance of early detection, and learn how to be proactive about reducing their risk.
“Dispelling the misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease is critically important, because they may cause people to ignore symptoms and delay taking action which impacts their health and quality of life,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO. “National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is the perfect time to reinforce factual information that can help someone spot the warning signs, get screened, and be proactive about their brain health.”
Here are five common falsehoods about Alzheimer’s disease:
Falsehood #1: Alzheimer’s is just part of getting older. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging– it is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder, that impacts memory, thinking and language skills, and the ability to carry out simple tasks. It differs from regular age-related memory loss, such as occasional forgetfulness. Persistent, progressively worsening memory issues that interfere with every day functions, such as routinely becoming disoriented in familiar places or forgetting familiar names and faces, are not “just part of old age”—they’re warning signs of a health problem.
Falsehood #2: Alzheimer’s disease only affects senior citizens. While the majority of people who develop Alzheimer’s disease are over the age of 65, young-onset Alzheimer’s disease can affect people as young their 30s or 40s. Memory problems at any age should be checked out.
Falsehood #3: Nothing can be done for Alzheimer’s disease. Although there is currently no cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, people diagnosed with the disease can, and often do, have meaningful, active lives. They can participate in activities they enjoyed prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s (making some adaptations), and therapeutic interventions can help improve one’s quality of life. Some medications can help manage the symptoms. The earlier Alzheimer’s is detected, the more significant the impact these interventions can have.
Falsehood #4: You cannot reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer’s, lifestyle choices can help you reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Good diet, exercise, social interaction, learning new skills, proper sleep, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking are all things you can, and should, do to promote good brain health.
Falsehood #5: All memory impairments are the result of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a cause of memory loss, but not the only one—vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, depression, sleep apnea, stress, and urinary tract infections can all cause memory impairments. Detecting the underlying cause is essential in order to take action. Memory screenings are an important first step in uncovering potential memory issues—they are quick, noninvasive, and consist of a series of questions to gauge memory, language, thinking skills and other intellectual functions. Results are not a diagnosis, but a memory screening can suggest if someone should see a physician for a full evaluation. AFA offers free, confidential memory screenings virtually—visit www.alzfdn.org to learn more.
Anyone who has questions about Alzheimer’s disease, memory concerns, or support resources available to help can contact the AFA Helpline seven days a week by phone (866-232-8484), webchat (www.alzfdn.org), or text message (646-586-5283). Information about Alzheimer’s, memory screening, caregiving, and healthy aging is also available on AFA’s website, www.alzfdn.org.