Alzheimer’s and Dementia – Understanding What They Are

Whether you are approaching your senior years, are there already, or you have an elderly parent, chances are you know someone who has been affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. With more than 400,000 Australians expected to be diagnosed with dementia within the next 10 years, it’s clear this disease is a very real concern. What this means is that it’s important for people to understand what the two diseases are, their symptoms, and how they affect that person’s life moving forward.

There is quite a bit of confusion about the two and whether they are different or in fact one-in-the same. Let’s take a closer look at Alzheimer’s and dementia to learn more.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease occurs in the brain and is a progressive disease that gets worse over time. It causes issues with the person’s cognitive mental functions and memory. A person who has Alzheimer’s will have problems with their perception of reality and even language. The most common risk factor for the disease is age. The older a person gets, the more at risk they become. Other risk factors include excessive exposure to aluminium and some diet choices; chromosome defects; and genetic factors.

It most commonly presents itself in a person between the ages of 50-70 years old. Depending how advanced it becomes, the person may eventually lose their ability to move, perform everyday tasks, and even speak.

The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include depression, certain behavioural changes (aggression, agitation, or wandering), a hard time performing simple tasks, language issues, and memory problems. Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse the disease nor is there a cure. There are treatments meant to help the person manage the disease and reduce the symptoms however.

What is Dementia?

According to a report from Access Economics, by the year 2050 more than 730,000 Australians will be suffering from dementia. This equates to just under 3% of the country’s total population. It’s a disease that is on the rise, and is therefore getting a lot of attention.

Dementia isn’t just one thing rather it is a term used to describe a number of symptoms that are caused by a brain disorder. These symptoms can include an inability to perform everyday tasks, language issues, problem-solving issues, memory loss, and problems thinking. In some causes dementia can cause changes to a person’s mood and temperament. The disease is progressive, getting worse and more severe over time. The brain cells will continue to be damaged and eventually they will become so damaged that they die.

What is the Difference?

Both Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the brain, and they carry the same symptoms – so what is the difference between the two? It can be explained quite simply – dementia isn’t just one thing, rather it is used as an umbrella term to describe a number of conditions and symptoms. Alzheimer’s is a disease that can cause dementia. Approximately 60% of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s.

As the numbers continue to rise, expect for both of these conditions to receive even more attention, with hopes of finding a cure one day.

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