Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia: What is the Difference?

Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia: What is the Difference?

By: Will Berkowitz

It is very common for people to confuse Alzheimer’s and Dementia, due to the detrimental cognitive impairment that occurs from both of them. Despite a commonly occurring link between Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Dementia is a symptom, characterized by at least two impaired brain functions, while Alzheimer’s is the disease. Alzheimer’s happens to be the most common disorder to lead to Dementia among Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and others.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that about 5.8 million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 50 million Americans have Dementia. Dementia mainly comes from aging, but other reasons for Dementia can derive from drug abuse, tumors, metabolic disorders, stroke, vascular disease, and hypoglycemia. 

In Alzheimer’s, damage to the brain occurs years before symptoms appear. There is excessive production of toxic protein deposits that form into plaque and tangles in the brain. When this happens, connections between the cells are lost, and they begin to die. In severe cases of Alzheimer’s, the brain shows significant shrinkage. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include forgetfulness, apathy, impaired judgment, disorientation, depression, confusion, and behavioral changes. In advanced stages, it can lead to difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking. 

When Alzheimer’s turns into Dementia, behavioral changes often create depression and aggression. Memory and reasoning continue to get worse and, unfortunately, are usually irreversible. People can also have more than one type of dementia, known as mixed dementia. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for either Alzheimer’s or Dementia. They both tend to become apparent in later stages of life and are natural occurrences. If you or someone you know is dealing with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, it is best to speak with a medical professional about what lifestyle changes you can make to best adapt to your cognitive state.

Quick Facts
- More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050 this number is expected to rise by 13 million.

- Almost two-thirds of those Americans who suffer with Alzheimer's are women. 

- Dementia is not a specific disease, rather a group of diseases that is characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions.

- It is estimated that five million adults aged 65 or older suffer with Dementia. This number is being projected to reach 14 million by 2060.

- Research shows that regular exercise can help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. For Dementia the risk was reduced by 30 percent and for Alzheimer’s the risk was reduced by 45 percent.

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