Alzheimer’s and Dementia - What's the Difference
Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 146% since the year 2000 and 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. With such increased prevalence and awareness, it is common for people to wonder, “What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?”, or “What is dementia?”
Dementia can be broken down into two parts: ‘de’, which means without or to reduce something, and ‘mentia’, which is from the Latin root ‘mens’- the same root used in words like mental or mentation. Thus, the word dementia means a reduction in mentation or, put another way, to lose one’s mind. When we say a person has dementia, we are using one word to describe symptoms of cognitive decline. The brain controls everything about our physical person, from memory, speech, motor skills, and auditory processing, to visual processing, personality, orientation, other sensory abilities, and much more. When someone has dementia, he or she generally has memory loss and at least one other symptom of cognitive decline.
When we say someone has dementia, we are referring to symptoms, but we are not saying is what is causing those symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia symptoms and accounts for somewhere around 70 percent of dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s disease, named for Dr. Alois Alzheimer, is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles made of a protein called tau, and sticky plaques made of amyloid beta protein that fill spaces between brain cells. The degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease often begins 10 to 20 years before symptoms show up. When symptoms become apparent, we call the symptoms dementia.
Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia, so you may be asking yourself, “What are the different types of dementia?” There are many different dementing illnesses. Some of the most common after Alzheimer’s type dementia are vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, fronto-temporal degeneration, Parkinson’s dementia, Huntington’s disease, alcohol-induced dementia, and mixed dementia. Each of these types of dementia presents in unique ways, but there is a lot of overlap in symptoms. For example, the differences between Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are most apparent in the pattern of decline. Alzheimer’s tends to get steadily worse over time and picks up speed toward the end of the disease process. Vascular dementia, on the other hand, usually progresses in more of a step-wise fashion where the person plateaus for a while until there is another stroke, mini-stroke, or another trigger that causes decline.
Regardless of the type of dementia, many people feel frustrated that they or their loved one has been given a diagnosis and told there is nothing else that can be done. At A Mind For All Seasons, we respectfully disagree. There is a lot that can be done to improve how a person living with dementia functions from using the right interpersonal techniques and setting up the environment to help them succeed to determining what nutrient and hormone deficiencies chronic inflammation insulin resistance toxins and other factors are contributing to cognitive decline and put a plan in place to correct them. Many dementia cases are driven by lifestyle factors and are preventable if the right treatments are implemented correctly. We are on a mission at A Mind For All Seasons to help as many people as possible avoid the ravages of dementia and we invite you to learn more today!