Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a specific disease. Dementia is not.
Learning about the two terms and the difference between them is important and can empower individuals with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, their families and their caregivers with necessary knowledge.
Dementia describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning or other thinking skills. Many different types of dementia exist, and many conditions cause it. Mixed dementia is a condition in which brain changes of more than one type of dementia occur simultaneously. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging. It is caused by damage to brain cells that affects their ability to communicate, which can affect thinking, behavior and feelings.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by complex brain changes following cell damage. It leads to dementia symptoms that gradually worsen over time. The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is trouble remembering new information because the disease typically impacts the part of the brain associated with learning first.
As Alzheimer’s advances, symptoms get more severe and include disorientation, confusion and behavior changes. Eventually, speaking, swallowing and walking become difficult. There is no way to prevent, cure or even slow Alzheimer’s disease.
Though the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is increasing age, the disease is not a normal part of aging. And though most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, approximately 200,000 Americans under 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
By The Alzheimer’s Association