Trying to unpuzzle the daily headlines about Alzheimer’s is almost as challenging as sudoku —but unfortunately all the misinformation out there is more likely to cause cognitive dissonance, not discipline.
Yes, you’re right to try to stay on top of the latest brain health news — but if confusion has you rushing to the doctor’s office, or worse, stalling on steps to better your health, then you’re on information overload. And that’s not a good place to be when it comes to sorting medical fact from fiction.
So let’s set the record straight:
Myth No. 1: Alzheimer’s symptoms are a normal part of aging.
Mild memory loss can be a normal part of aging. Even young people forget an appointment or space on a person’s name from time to time. Who hasn’t gone looking for their reading glasses when they are propped up on their head? But forgetting how to drive to a place you’ve driven to hundreds of times is a sign of a more serious problem. Yes, aging does increase your risk of experiencing Alzheimer’s symptom, but it is by no means an inevitable part of aging.
Myth No. 2: Alzheimer’s happens only to older people.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s can occur in people who are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. When this is diagnosed, it is called early onset Alzheimer’s. This type of Alzheimer’s is more likely to have a genetic component passed down from a parent.
Five medications the FDA approved to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms: donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne), memantine (Namenda), rivastigmine (Exelon), and tacrine (Cognex).
Myth No. 3: Alzheimer’s isn’t fatal.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Most people with Alzheimer’s can live eight to 10 years after they are diagnosed. In advanced cases sufferers can forget to drink fluids leading to dehydration, or they can forget they have food in their mouth, resulting in choking. Food being aspirated into the lungs can lead to pneumonia, which is often the cause of death for end stage Alzheimer’s. Behaviors associated with the disease such as wandering off can lead to dangerous and sometimes fatal situations.
Myth No. 4: There are treatments that stop the disease from getting worse.
Although there are some medications that are thought to help Alzheimer’s symptoms, there is no current cure for the disease, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association. No supplements, diets or health regimens have been scientifically proven to cure or slow the disease. Be wary of any products that claim to cure or permanently improve Alzheimer’s, because they have not been adequately tested or approved by the FDA.
Let’s clear this up ASAP, Alzheimer’s is NOT caused by aluminum, flu shots, silver fillings or aspartame.
Myth No. 5: Alzheimer’s is caused by aluminum, flu shots, silver fillings or aspartame.
There is no scientific evidence backing any of the above concerns. In fact, getting your flu shot boosts your overall health, and thus can lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Scientifically designed and executed studies still have not yielded definitive answers to the cause, prevention, or cure of most of the dementias, including Alzheimer’s.
Here is a list of simple tips gathered from prospective studies and incorporating what science knows so far about our protecting our cognitive health.
- Find ways to be part of your community and stay socially and spiritually active.
- Prevent brain trauma by wearing a seatbelt, wearing a helmet during contact sports, and avoiding falls.
- Get enough sleep.
- Look after your mental health by talking to your doctor about depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions.
- Challenge your mind by trying new things such as learning a new language, developing new skills and doing puzzles.
You can help find answers surrounding dementia and other brain disorders by enrolling in the Brain Health Registry. The University of California registry is part of the largest observational study ever conducted and is helping to find cures for the dementias of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and others by reducing the two greatest obstacles to brain research, cost and time. Register online to this confidential registry by going to www.www.brainhalthregistry.org.