The biggest myths about dementia

Posted by Anna on May 7th, 2019

Do you know what dementia is? According to Live in Care Hub ( a third of us are scared of experiencing it in later life and while the subject has got less taboo in the last ten years (over half are more comfortable talking about it now than they would have been a decade ago) there’s still an awful lot of misinformation out there.

“Alzheimer’s is just the fancy name for dementia”

Dementia is a a set of symptoms which can have multiple underlying causes. Alzheimer’s is the most common of these causes. Vascular dementia is caused when a lack of oxygen to the brain causes nerve cells to die, perhaps as the result of a stroke. Dementia with Lewy Bodies is caused when abnormal growths form in the brain. Frontotemporal dementia is caused by protein growths on the front and sides of the brain. Mixed dementia refers to the case where more than one type of dementia is present, with mixed symptoms.

“Only old people get dementia”

Out of everyone that has diagnosed dementia around 42,000 are underthe age of 65 (around 5%). Although ridiculously rare, there is even form of Alzheimer’s that can affect children - Niemann-Pick Disease Type C (NP-C).

“Granny had it so I expect Mum and I will too”

Dementia comes in many forms and while certain genes raise certain risk factors it’s not as simple to predict based on family history as, say, colour-blindness is. Whilst scientists might one day discover a genetic disposition to dementia, and hopefully also a treatment to reduce the risk of developing it, there’s not enough evidence at the moment to support a genetic tendancy.

“Everyone gets a bit forgetful when they get old – it’s natural!”

Dementia is not just getting a bit forgetful – it’s a degenerative brain condition and in some forms memory loss isn’tpresent. Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. Ageing is a risk factor for dementia, and any mood changes, behaviour shifts or loss of ability should be checked out by a doctor.

“Now I’ve been diagnosed I’ll have to move into a home”

Many sufferers of dementia live out their days in their own home with support from their family, and perhaps a specially trained  live in carer. The benefits of staying in their own home can be found in the Better at Home Report.

“There’s tablets for it these days”

We wish there were! There are several medications that can slow the rate at which Alzheimers disease progresses, but cannot prevent the brain continuing to be damaged. Those approved by NICE at present are: Donepezil (Aricept), Rivastigmine (Exelon), Galantamine (Reminyl, Acumor XL, Galsya XL, Gatalin XL) and Memantine (Ebixa, Nemdatine, Alzhok).

“You can prevent it by…..”

...vitamins? Memory games? Food supplements? There’s no strong evidence linking any of these supposedly preventative actions to a reduced risk of dementia.  Keeping fit and healthy, eating a balanced diet, controlling your blood pressure and keeping socially active reduce your risk of a whole host of conditions, including cardiovascular disease and stroke which are two major causes of dementia.

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