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

Many people assume that dementia and Alzheimer’s are the same. Both terms, in fact, are used interchangeably to describe chronic cognitive disease involving memory loss. While people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia often experience memory loss, that doesn’t mean they are the same. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are two different conditions.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is one or more symptoms associated with the loss of memory and/or cognitive function. It’s not considered a disease. Rather, dementia is defined as a condition involving one or more symptoms.

The hallmark symptom of dementia is memory loss. Some degree of memory loss is expected when aging. As a senior ages, he or she may have trouble remembering things. With dementia, though, memory loss is more pronounced — and the senior’s memory will typically worsen as time passes.

Symptoms of dementia include the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Increased agitation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression

How Common Is Dementia?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, with 10 million new cases occurring each year.

Dementia typically occurs in seniors and older adults. Research shows that the average age of onset is around 65. With that said, younger adults can develop dementia as well. Adults in their 40s and even 30s can be diagnosed with dementia; it’s just more common among seniors and older adults.

What Is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s Disease, also known simply as Alzheimer’s, is a specific form of dementia. It’s considered a chronic neurodegenerative disease, meaning it begins relatively mild while worsening as time goes on.

Seniors and other individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s share many of the same symptoms as those who suffer from dementia. The main symptom is memory loss. In both dementia and Alzheimer’s, a senior’s ability to remember things declines.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Forgetting names and faces
  • Speech problems
  • Trouble with critical thinking
  • Misplacing items

How Common Is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is very common. It’s actually the single most common form of dementia. Statistics show that over two-thirds of all dementia cases involve Alzheimer’s.

All forms of dementia have an underlying cause. As previously mentioned, dementia isn’t a disease. It’s a condition that’s characterized by one or more symptoms. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a disease. Therefore, it can cause dementia.

Distinguishing Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Neither dementia nor Alzheimer’s are considered a normal part of aging. Dementia typically involves damage to the brain, which can be caused by Alzheimer’s.

Only a physician can determine whether a senior is suffering from dementia, and if so, if the senior’s dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s. There are other neurodegenerative diseases that can cause Alzheimer’s, some of which include Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, vascular dementia and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Keep in mind that in many cases of dementia, the underlying cause is never identified. Dementia is easier to diagnose because it’s simply a broad of symptoms. If a senior exhibits the symptoms of it, a physician may diagnose him or her with dementia. The physician, however, may not be able to identify the specific cause of the senior’s dementia.

Slowing Down Dementia

There are ways to slow down dementia, one of which is to exercise. A study published in the British Medical Journal (BML) found that seniors who regularly exercised experienced a slower progression of dementia symptoms than their counterparts who didn’t exercise regularly. Exercise offers both physical and mental health benefits, the latter of which could be attributed to its ability to slow down dementia.

Along with regular exercise, eating a healthy diet may slow down dementia. Many physicians recommend the Mediterranean diet for seniors who are either suffering from dementia or at risk for developing dementia. The Mediterranean diet focuses on fish and other lean meats with large quantities of leafy greens and whole grains.

Socialization may slow down dementia as well. There’s a strong correlation between a senior’s level of socializaton and his or her risk of dementia. Seniors who are socially active are typically less likely to develop dementia. Socialization promotes healthy cognitive function that, among other things, protects against dementia.

Reducing stress levels may slow dowm dementia. Chronic stress can accelerate cognitive decline, which is a contributing factor in dementia. When a senior experiences chronic stress, his or her cognitive function may decline at a faster rate. Conversely, seniors who don’t suffer from chronic sreess are better protected against cognitive decline and dementia.

In Conclusion

Dementia and Alzheimer’s aren’t the same. Dementia is a condition that involves one or more symptoms associated with memory loss and cognitive decline. In comparison, Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease.

Most cases of dementia are caused by Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is responsible for about two in three of all dementia cases. It’s the main cause of dementia. The difference is that dementia refers to one or more symptoms, whereas Alzheimer’s refers to a specific neurodegenerative disease.

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