Alzheimer’s disease: Myths Busted

Myth: You have become very forgetful these days. You may have Alzheimer’s disease

Fact: Memory becoming less sharp as you age is a known fact. But this does not mean that you have Alzheimer’s disease. People reach even 90s with good memory and with little decline in mental abilities. But when memory loss begins to affect day-to-day functions including cognition or thinking ability, memory, judgment and eventually personality and behaviour, you need to seek medical help. Experts say that severe memory loss needs to be considered as a symptom of serious disease.

Myth: Your sister has Alzheimer’s disease; you too may get it

Fact: If your parent or your sibling has Alzheimer’s disease, you may not get it; only there may be a slightly increased risk. Genetics does play a role but only about 7 per cent of cases are linked with genes. Familial Alzheimer’s disease can occur due to rare gene mutations and inflict in the early years. Researchers have identified a ‘risk gene’ apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4) responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. If you happen to inherit this gene from one or both parents, the risk of developing the disease increases. Late onset of the disease rules out the possibility of heredity.

 

Myth:  Alzheimer’s disease affects only old people

Fact: It is true that Alzheimer’s disease afflicts people older than 65 and beyond. However, the disease can strike people between the ages of 30-50. Remember, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of ageing.

 

Myth: You remember all kinds of things from the past. You do not have Alzheimer’s disease

 

Fact: Alzheimer’s typically influences newly learned or recent memories at first. Memories of the more distant past such as names, places may remain for a while. Long-term memories do not get erased until the middle stage of the disease. Thus even when you are recently diagnosed you can recall your past well. Also, sometimes the person with Alzheimer’s appears to be normal for short periods of time.

Myth: People with Alzheimer’s disease may turn violent

 

Fact: With the memory loss and the resulting confusion it can be frustrating for the person suffering from the disease. There may be some amount of aggression but each individual behaves differently and all do not turn violent.

Myth: Memory boosters, vitamin supplements and drugs can prevent Alzheimer’s disease

 

Fact: Research studies have tested the efficacy of vitamins E, B, C, selenium, folate, ginko biloba etc in preventing the disease. However the data is inconclusive.

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Myth: Alzheimer’s disease is curable

 

Fact: With early diagnosis and medications, cognitive therapy etc., you can manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow the pace of memory loss but cannot cure it. It is a slow progressive disease and there is no way to reverse the symptoms.

Myth: Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented

Fact: This is not true. Although lifestyle changes, being physically active, eating nutritious foods, reducing stress, controlling blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol and keeping your brain active may help reduce the risk.

 

Myth: People with Alzheimer’s disease do not know what is wrong with them

Fact: Most people with the disease do realize that they have memory lapses. They tend to forget their residential address or forget to take their regular medication and so on. They are aware that something is wrong with them but the degree of awareness can decline as the disease progresses.

 

Myth: If you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you are as good as dead

Fact: Many people with the disease lead active lives. Early diagnosis and medications help. The person with Alzheimer’s disease needs to be treated with dignity and respect and he/she can survive and lead a happy life with the help of their loved ones around them.

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