Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects about 6.5 million American adults aged 65 and older (as of 2022). But, despite its widespread prevalence, there are many myths and misconceptions about the disease among the general public.
This post is an attempt to help people separate fact from fiction and increase awareness about brain disease by highlighting some misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some of the prevalent ones:
1. Alzheimer’s Disease is the Same as Dementia
The terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Dementia is a group of brain disorders that affect your thinking, cognition, reasoning, memory, and behavior, and Alzheimer’s is a part of it.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, but there are many other types of it, too.
2. Alzheimer’s is an ‘Older People’s Disease’
Statistically, most Alzheimer’s patients are above 65 when they develop Alzheimer’s, which tells that your risk for it increases with age. However, there are about 5% to 6% cases of early-onset or younger-onset Alzheimer’s, too. As the terms imply, these are cases where people develop Alzheimer’s earlier in their life. They could be in their 30s, 40s, or 50s.
Alzheimer’s is common among the elderly, but it’s not an ‘older people’s disease.’
3. Flu Shots Make You More Likely to Develop Alzheimer’s Disease
This ‘urban myth’ became popular in 2005 when a doctor, Bill Maher, talked about it on ‘Larry King Live.’ He asserted that a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases ten times by getting flu shots for more than 5 years in a row. This is simply not true.
There are numerous research studies showing that vaccinations, including that for flu, help reduce the risk of diseases. Many studies have, in fact, also found an association between flu shots and a reduced risk for dementia.
4. Aluminum Exposure Can Lead to Alzheimer’s
This myth about Alzheimer’s was widely popular during the 1960s and 70s, but it’s high time now that it’s put to rest for good. No research study has found a connection between aluminum exposure via beverage cans, aluminum pots, and pans,
antiperspirants, or antacids. Healthcare experts do not think that exposure to aluminum through these everyday sources poses any threat of developing Alzheimer’s.
5. Alzheimer’s is Hereditary
Having people in the family with Alzheimer’s puts you at a higher risk of developing the brain disorder, but it’s not always inherited. In fact, research shows that only about 5% of Alzheimer’s cases are genetically inherited. In the vast majority of cases, this doesn’t happen.
The Final Word
More than 6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s in the US alone, and the number is expected to increase to about 13 million by 2050. The high prevalence of the disease makes it important to educate people and eradicate misbeliefs about it to improve awareness and understanding.