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Alzheimer’s and dementia

Posted October 08, 2014 in Advice Column, Clive

A common question we get from everyone in senior living is what is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Many believe the two are one and the same. However, while related, they are not the same thing.

Dementia is an overall term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Dementia is not a specific disease, but is the umbrella for which several diseases that are associated with a decline in memory or thinking skills would fall under. Alzheimer’s disease is one such disease. However there are many others, including Lewy Body dementia, Parkinson’s dementia, Vascular dementia and more. Overall, there are more than 50 different types of dementia, and individuals can have more than one type of dementia at the same time, known as “mixed dementia.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. However, not all dementias are Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior. Alzheimer’s makes up about 60-80 percent of all dementia cases. Classic symptoms include memory loss, apathy, depression, confusion and impaired judgment. As the disease progresses, the person will eventually have difficulty with speaking, swallowing and walking in the end stages. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that 5.2 million Americans older than 65 and 200,000 younger than 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. These numbers will only continue to grow. It is estimated by 2050 someone will develop Alzheimer’s disease every 33 seconds.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are things you can do to lower your risk factor. Here are some things to consider to reduce your risk: exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, participate in mentally stimulating activities, get quality sleep, manage your stress levels and have an active social life.

Information provided by Kara Bernsee, Woodlands Creek Active Retirement Community, 12605 Woodlands Parkway, Clive, 515-223-9755

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