Alzheimer's vs. Dementia
by Marissa Steingold
What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia? The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but their meanings are distinct. Here is a quick primer:
“Dementia” is an umbrella term for various symptoms of mental decline. Keep in mind that age-related forgetfulness (so-called ‘senior moments’) is not dementia. Dementia sufferers experience cognitive impairment to the point that they lose their ability to perform daily functions—such as taking medication, paying bills and driving. Though dementia is most common in older adults, it can occur in younger people.
Alzheimer’s is a specific dementia-causing disease that attacks the brain, causes progressive memory and behavioral issues, and eventually destroys the patient’s ability to carry out simple functional tasks. We still don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s, but patients exhibit amyloid plaques between neurons that disrupt cell function. Most diagnoses occur in people over 65, though the disease does occasionally occur earlier in life. There is no cure.
Diseases that cause dementia
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases, but there are many others. For instance, vascular dementia, occurring as a result of loss of blood flow to the brain (often from stroke), is the second most common type. Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s also cause dementia.
If you or a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, please consult your doctor for more information and treatment.