What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?
Dementia is not a disease itself. It is a term used to describe a number of symptoms that can be caused by various conditions and diseases that affect the brain. Dementia symptoms include a decline and loss of cognitive functions and memory, confusion, behavioral and personality changes in the affected person. Alzheimer’s is just one disease that causes dementia.
There are a number of conditions that have similar cognitive effects as Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body dementia are just a few that exhibit many of the same symptoms and are often referred to as “related dementias”.
The confusion between dementia and Alzheimer’s is because the terms are often used interchangeably even though dementia can have a number of other causes. It is even possible for a person to have more than one form of dementia at the same time. One of the most common combinations of dementias is referred to as Mixed dementia, which is the combination of Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia. Click here for more information about ADRD.
Is there some sort of blood test I should get done to find out if I am going to end up with Alzheimer’s?
Good question. The short answer is no. What causes Alzheimer’s in 99 percent of all cases is still unknown, but age and family history are the two main risk factors. You have probably been hearing about gene mutations in three genes which have been linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. But it is not a definitive indicator that you will develop the disease. So even if you are tested for these mutations it doesn’t mean much. Current research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors cause Alzheimer’s and in this case, scientists believe that an overall healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent the disease.
That being said, Early-Onset Alzheimer’s (EOA), which is developed before the age of 65, does not always fall into this category. Only 5 percent of all cases of Alzheimer’s are classified as EOA and in only 1 percent of those cases there is a clear genetic link running in families with a long history of EOA. But again, this is very rare and if your parents developed the disease later in life there is no reason for you to be tested. See more about EOA here.
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