Friday, September 11, 2020

Alzheimer's Disease Vs. Dementia

Half of people age 80 or older have some form of dementia. The older someone is, the more their risk goes up. Significant declines in brain function may seem inevitable because of how common it is. But most experts believe that dementia is not a normal part of aging and that it can somehow be stopped. For that day to come, a better understanding of the nuances of the dementia subtypes and their underlying pathologies is crucial, says Peter Nelson, a neuropathologist at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky.
There’s still a tendency to lump all dementia patients into what Nelson calls a “grab bag of Alzheimer’s disease.” Some older people who are experiencing impairments to their thinking, memory and judgment might not have Alzheimer's, but another form of dementia. Other brain diseases associated with old age can be just as devastating and more common than you might think. 

A greater emphasis on non-Alzheimer's dementias not only would help patients get better care, but it could move research forward. Until diseases are correctly named, defined and understood, finding ways to treat and prevent them is pretty much next to impossible.

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, accounting for roughly 60 to 80 percent of all cases. But Alzheimer's is a specific disease, whereas dementia is not. Rather, dementia is an umbrella term that refers to declines in a person’s memory and cognition that become serious enough to interfere with daily activities.

In some ways, saying someone has dementia is similar to saying they have a cold. Some 200 viruses, each genetically different, can attack the respiratory system. Many of the symptoms are alike — coughing, sneezing, a sore throat — but that doesn’t tell you much about the underlying causes or how to fix them.
“Every organ has dozens and dozens of diseases and dysfunctions as you age. The brain is entirely more complicated than the other ones, and yet, we have this view that only one disease can affect it with aging,” Nelson says. 

Read the full report with findings by Peter Nelson, a neuropathologist at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky here...

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