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Public Misinformed About Dementia

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Thursday, 19 May 2016 03:38 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Most people don’t realize how much control they actually have when it comes to their risk for developing Alzheimer’s as they get older.

If one has a close family member with the disease (e.g., parent or sibling) that does influence risk. But for the average person, genetic factors contribute onlyabout one-third of what determines their brain health.

That means that more than 50 percent of our risk for getting Alzheimer’s disease is attributed to nongenetic factors under our own control.

While many people worry about mental decline as they age, quite a few have inaccurate information about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Not long ago, Tina, a middle-aged real estate agent, asked me to consult on her widowed mother. Unfortunately, Tina’s mom kept getting lost and had become increasingly reclusive over a six-month period. These kinds of symptoms could result from many different causes, ranging from medication side effects, depression, or even a malfunctioning GPS device in her car.

But Tina was concerned about the possibility of Alzheimer’s. After all, she’d seen so much in the news about it that she was worried that her mother was falling victim. And of course, if that was the case, Tina naturally wondered if she was destined to develop Alzheimer’s as well.

I conducted a medical history, neuropsychiatric examination, blood tests, and brain scanning on Tina’s mother. During the feedback session, I said that she did not appear to have Alzheimer’s, but she did have another form of dementia.

Tina was relieved. “At least it’s only dementia and not Alzheimer’s!” She didn’t understand the difference between the two conditions.

Though Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, many other conditions can impair mental abilities, and some are reversible.

Fortunately, the form of dementia Tina’s mother was experiencing was reversible. Though memory loss seemed like her main problem, she actually had underlying depression that was causing her cognitive decline.
 

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More than 50 percent of our risk for getting Alzheimer’s disease is attributed to nongenetic factors under our own control.
dementia, Alzheimers, depression, cognitive decline
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2016-38-19
Thursday, 19 May 2016 03:38 PM
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