What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

They are far from one and the same
Editor
alzheimer's or dementia

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The terms “Alzheimer’s” and “dementia” are often used interchangeably. But the two conditions are actually quite different. You can think of the distinction in terms of an analogy to squares and rectangles. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Similarly, Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia — but not all dementia qualifies as Alzheimer’s.

Dementia is something of an umbrella term. It refers to a wide range of symptoms, including memory loss, diminishing attention span, difficulty focusing, and poor judgement. The symptoms of dementia disrupt a person’s ability to live a normal life.

People often assume that Alzheimer’s is a worsened state of dementia — that dementia occurs first, in a more mild form, and Alzheimer’s may follow. But that’s not really true. Alzheimer’s is not the only kind of dementia there is. Other forms of dementia include conditions such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s. Additionally, the terms are nonspecific to severity or need for treatment. A person can have dementia that is “worse” than another person’s Alzheimer’s. Conversely, it is possible to have Alzheimer’s that has progressed further than someone else’s dementia.

But Alzheimer’s is definitely the most common risk for cognitive decline, responsible for the majority of dementia cases. Patients with Alzheimer’s suffer memory loss and confusion due to a buildup of plaques and fibers in the brain. These compounds can get in the way of nerve signals and destroy nerve cells. Once these cells are destroyed, they cannot be regrown.

Alzheimer’s can be prevented and its progression can be slowed — but unfortunately, the disease is irreversible and cannot be cured. Watching out for the little-known warning signs of the disease is probably a good idea as you or your loved ones age.

So how does one prevent these conditions? The best tips to prevent Alzheimer’s and to stave off dementia are also pretty similar. Many of these preventative measures include lifestyle habits, such as getting enough sleep and engaging in physical exercise. But the foods you eat could have an impact, too. These foods could help lower your chances of cognitive decline.