With more than five million Americans now living with Alzheimer’s disease, chances are you have a friend or family member who has struggled with this mind-robbing illness. But do you really know the truth about this disease?
Take this quiz to see if you can separate fact from fiction…
A person can have Alzheimer's disease but not dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. Dementia is a general term that describes a loss of cognitive functioning (including thinking, remembering and reasoning) and behavioral abilities that is serious enough to interfere with a person’s daily activities. There are many forms of dementia, including Lewy body dementia (which afflicted actor/comedian Robin Williams) and frontotemporal dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common, accounting for 60% to 80% of dementia cases.
A smell test is one way to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
As Alzheimer's advances, it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, such as disorientation and deepening confusion about events, time and place. But research is now showing that brain changes begin long before symptoms such as those described above are apparent. A smell test, combined with standard cognitive testing, can help identify people who may be at increased risk for developing the disease in the years ahead.
Alzheimer's disease only strikes people who are over age 65.
The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is increasing age, and the majority of people with the disease are age 65 and older. But Alzheimer's is not just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under age 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s, a form of the disease that usually begins in one’s 40s or 50s.
There is a single test to determine whether a person has Alzheimer's.
Diagnosing Alzheimer's requires a careful medical evaluation, including a thorough medical history, mental status and mood testing, a physical and neurological exam, and tests (such as blood tests and brain imaging) to rule out other causes of dementia-like symptoms, such as head trauma, thyroid disorders, Lyme disease, certain medications (such as sedatives and opioids) and normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), a condition in which cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the ventricles (cavities) of the brain and interferes with thinking, memory, walking and bladder control.
Alzheimer's disease affects more men than women.
Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women. It’s true that women live longer than men, but this alone does not account for the disparity. Even though this is an intense area of Alzheimer’s research, scientists have yet to discover why women are disproportionately afflicted with the disease.
Alzheimer's patients can live as long as 20 years.
People with Alzheimer’s live four to eight years, on average, after diagnosis. But depending on other factors, someone with the disease can live as long as 20 more years. Current Alzheimer's treatments, including medications such as donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and memantine (Namenda), cannot stop Alzheimer's from progressing, but they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to learn as much about the condition as possible. To ensure that you are getting the necessary information from your doctor, ask these questions.