Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia?

As we talk about memory loss in general terms, you will often hear the pairing Alzheimer’s and Dementia. But what is the difference between these two terms and how do they affect people?

Dementia

Dementia is a syndrome rather than a disease, which means that it refers to a series of symptoms but is not a specific diagnosis. Dementia is defined by a series of symptoms that affect cognitive tasks such as memory retrieval and reasoning. Alzheimer’s is just one of over 100 different forms of dementia, each with their own symptoms, causes, and outcomes.

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is most common form of dementia, making up about two-thirds of all diagnosed forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s specifically is caused by the buildup of Beta-Amyloid proteins in the hippocampus, damaging the brain’s ability to communicate memories, and eventually affecting the cerebral cortex the ability to regulate automatic processes and motor functioning. We tend to differentiate Alzheimer’s from dementia due to its prevalence over the other forms but nevertheless it is a dementia.

Other Forms of Dementia

There are over 100 forms of dementia. While Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent, there are other notable forms of dementia:

  1. Vascular Dementia – Vascular Dementia has similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s but is caused by strokes or anything that blocks blood flow to the brain for extended time. This accounts for ~20% of all cases of dementia
  2. Lewy Body Dementia – Lewy Body Dementia is caused by abnormal protein deposits in the brain. Rather than affecting memory as directly, patients may suffer from visual hallucinations, rigid muscles, tremors, and other physical impairments.
  3. Frontotemporal Dementia – This form of dementia is caused by damage to the frontal lobe or cerebral cortex of the brain. This can come from various head injuries and can affect memory, motor abilities, and executive functioning.

It is also possible for a person to have multiple forms of dementia. For example, it is common for those with Alzheimer’s to also have decreased blood flow to the brain, thereby causing Vascular Dementia as well. This is called Mixed Dementia and requires multiple types of treatment to help curb the effects.

That’s why we focus on community outreach and education to help our community understand the dangers and the ways to lower the chances of dementia.

Treatment and Outcomes

For all forms of dementia, treatment and outcomes are based mostly on how early a doctor is able to detect the dementia in question. That is why it is so important to get tested regularly while we are asymptomatic for a cognitive baseline and be able to monitor for cognitive decline starting as young as 40 years old especially if you have family history or a particular propensity towards dementia. For all forms of dementia, the regiment consists of various medications. The type and amount of medication will depend on the form of dementia in question. For example, for Alzheimer’s the treatment is usually a combination of medications for memory loss, but also for mood swings, and sleep related difficulties while Vascular Dementia treatment will focus on increasing blood flow to the brain.

It is important to note, while many forms of dementia are treatable, there is no cure for any form of dementia yet. Treatments can help mitigate the symptoms and help people have better days and longer lives, but it cannot reverse the damage.  Although, Kemper House is dedicated to discovering new ways to stave off and in some cases reverse the effects of dementia. 

That’s why we focus on community outreach and education to help our community understand the dangers and the ways to lower the chances of dementia. With better diets, good physical exercise, and regular brain exercises we can lower our chances of being diagnosed and feeling the effects cognitive decline. And of course, we cannot stress enough, early detection is key, so talk to your doctor about getting tested for cognitive delay or stop by a Kemper House to get memory screening by the with the world’s most advance and first FDA approved computerized cognitive assessment, no matter how young you are. Give yourself the best chance to live the life you want for as long as you can.