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The #1 Cause of Alzheimer's, According to Experts

Are you increasing your risk of getting Alzheimer's? Experts weigh in. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that affects thinking, behavior and memory. According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 6 million Americans aged 65 and over are living with the condition and that number is expected to reach 13 million by 2050. While there's no cure for Alzheimer's there are risk factors that increase the chance of getting the disease and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explain what they are. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia

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Shaili Gandhi, Vice President of Formulary Operations (PharmD) at SingleCare explains, "The difference between Alzheimers and dementia is that Alzheimers is a disease while dementia is a syndrome. A syndrome is a term used to encompass various symptoms and does not have a specific diagnosis. In fact, Alzheimers falls under the umbrella of dementia."

Hester Le Riche, CEO and founder of Tover, the healthcare technology company creating a more caring and inclusive world for people with cognitive challenges, including dementia adds, "Dementia is a collective term for over 50 different types of degenerative brain diseases. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, and 70% of individuals with dementia have Alzheimer's disease."

2

How Alzheimer's Can Affect Your Overall Health and Daily Life

Senior lady with alzheimer's disease, sitting in a wheelchair, confused about where she is
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Dr. Gandhi says, "Initially, patients with Alzheimers may see mild symptoms like disorientation and confusion. However, this can progress into more severe symptoms like difficulty swallowing, speaking, and walking." 

Le Riche shares, "This type of dementia is caused by amyloid plaques that clutter in the brain, preventing communication between brain cells. The clutter results in a loss of memory — first recent events, and much later, older memories—  and difficulty with complex tasks such as decision-making, planning and navigating. Alzheimer's could also cause aphasia, which is a language disorder. Individuals with aphasia have problems writing, reading, and speaking. This might include an individual struggling to come up with the right word to use in a conversation or having trouble understanding what someone else says. Individuals with aphasia also experience mood swings and personality changes. With Alzheimer's disease, individuals lose abilities in the reverse order of learning them. They slowly revert to behaviors from a developmental age. This happens gradually. On average, individuals live 6 1/2 years with dementia. Dementia often starts with a few symptoms that are not always directly recognized and, over time, the amount and severity of the symptoms increase." 

3

Signs of Alzheimer's to be Aware Of

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According to Dr. Gandhi, "Signs of Alzheimer's to be aware of can be memory loss (this may be noticable when the same questions are asked repeatedly) , difficulty completing daily tasks or confusion about time or place. Other signs can include new problems with words in speaking or writing, having trouble with balance, challenges judging distances or diminishing judgment."

Le Riche says, "An individual, or their family or friends, might first notice recurring behavioral problems, memory complaints, and characteristics, which are not of the norm, as initial symptoms of dementia. Recognizing these are important in diagnosis.  

Common symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer's disease include:

  •     Forgetfulness
  •     Problems with daily activities
  •     Mistakes with time and place
  •     Language problems
  •     Losing things
  •     Poor judgment
  •     Withdrawal from social activities
  •     Changes in behavior and character
  •     Restlessness
  •     Problems with vision"
4

Causes of Alzheimer's

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Dr. Gandhi states, "There is no singular cause of Alzheimers, however, there are few risk factors that increase the chances of developing the disease. This includes advanced age, family history, those who have suffered a serious head injury, and unhealthy lifestyle habits that lead to obesity, high blood pressure and/or diabetes.  Women are also more likely than men to develop Alzheimers."

Le Riche lists the following causes/risk factors for Alzheimer's. 

-Age

When an individual gets older, the chance of dementia increases.

– Unhealthy lifestyle

A risk factor to developing Alzheimer's is having an unhealthy lifestyle, including smoking, drinking alcohol, and not doing enough physical activity.

–Genes

Certain types of dementia are more likely to be hereditary. As an example, frontotemporal dementia is more likely to run in the family than Alzheimer's disease."

5

How to Help Prevent Alzheimer's

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Dr. Gandhi says, "Alzheimer's is a disease that worsens over time and sadly there is no cure. The best prevention is to simply live as healthy of a life as possible – exercise, eat healthy, limit alcohol and don't smoke, etc."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather