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reviewed 9/19/2018

Alzheimer's disease: Myth or fact?

More than 5 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have Alzheimer's disease. The disorder slowly destroys a person's memory and thinking skills to the point where the individual can't carry out simple activities. How much do you know about Alzheimer's?

Myth or fact: Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.

Fact. Dementia is a progressive, irreversible decline in mental function. It can be caused by many illnesses or other health problems. In some cases, a person can have both Alzheimer's and vascular dementia, which results from having multiple small strokes. People with dementia may have difficulty thinking, learning and using language.

Myth or fact: Cognitive difficulties are always linked to Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.

Myth. Medications can sometimes cause cognitive difficulties. So can vitamin B12 deficiency and chronic alcoholism. Stress, anxiety or depression also can be mistaken for Alzheimer's.

Myth or fact: Serious memory problems are just a normal part of aging.

Myth. Age-related changes in the brain can make you more forgetful in older age. The name of someone you recently met might slip your mind. You might not learn new things as quickly as you once did. But more serious memory problems—like forgetting to attend important events or remembering which roads lead to home—are not a normal part of aging.

Myth or fact: Alzheimer's disease can be fatal.

Fact. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Alzheimer's kills brain cells and causes a loss of bodily functions. People with severe Alzheimer's cannot communicate or take care of themselves. They may spend all of their time in bed as their bodies shut down.

Myth or fact: Drinking out of aluminum cans or using aluminum cookware can cause Alzheimer's disease.

Myth. In the 1960s and '70s it was proposed as a cause of Alzheimer's disease. While foods cooked in aluminum pots and pans are now considered to be safe, scientists are still exploring a possible connection between other sources of aluminum and Alzheimer's.

Myth or fact: There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease.

Fact. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved medications that can slow down the worsening of symptoms in some people, but the effects are only temporary. Currently, there are no treatments that cure or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Memory problems often are one of the first signs of Alzheimer's disease, but this can vary from person to person. Learning more about the signs of the disease could help you get a loved one the help he or she may need.

Learn the signs

Sources: Alzheimer's Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute on Aging

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