Fact or fiction: 8 myths you need to know about Alzheimer’s

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease is very prevalent in the community, has no cure, and understandably causes stress and anxiety for many that dread developing the disease themselves or having a loved one fall victim to it. As with any disease with distressing consequences, people talk, reality can become distorted – and myths are created. With any serious disease, it is important to know what is the truth and what is fiction. Here are eight myths to be mindful of:

Alzheimer’s won’t kill you
As much as we’d like to believe this, it is just not true. Alzheimer’s is a serious disease that destroys brain cells, causing memory changes, loss of body functions, erratic behaviour and more. Over time, it slowly takes away a person’s identity, their ability to communicate and interact with others, to feed themselves, talk, move or even orientate themselves around their own home. Nobody is cured of Alzheimer’s.

Losing your memory is simply a natural part of growing old
As we get older we will all suffer from occasional memory problems, such as forgetting the name of certain objects, places we’ve been to or occasionally forgetting someone’s name. However, with Alzheimer’s disease the symptoms are much more severe than just occasional memory loss. The brain cells die, which causes the patient to forget the most basic events or names of long-term friends.

Alzheimer’s disease only affects the ageing population
Alzheimer’s disease is more prevalent in the ageing community, but it can hit people in their 30s and 40s. When this happens it is known as younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In the USA, for example, there are more than 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s. Approximately 200,000 of these people are less than 65 years of age, suffering from younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

Aluminium pots, pans and cans causes Alzheimer’s
Way back in the 1960s and ‘70s, aluminium was under scrutiny as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s. This led to a great amount of anxiety in the community as people readily drank from cans, ate canned food, and cooked in aluminium pots and pans. They also wore antiperspirants containing aluminium and consumed antacids with the mineral. Over time many studies have been done, ruling out any concerns that aluminium contributes in any way to Alzheimer’s disease.

Aspartame is a contributor to memory loss
A common artificial sweetener, Aspartame, has been the cause for concern for a number of different issues. It is commonly known under its brand names, NutraSweet and Equal, and was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to use in all foods and beverages in 1996. As of May 2006, the US drug advisory board, the FDA, announced that they have not been presented with any scientific evidence that would change their beliefs on the conclusion that Aspartame is safe for most people. Their conclusions are based on over 100 clinical and laboratory studies.

Having a flu injection will increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
This myth seemed to run like the flu virus itself amongst the community with no sustaining evidence. Simply a theory, the US doctor that proposed it had his licence suspended by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. In fact, since then there have been several studies to the contrary, linking flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and overall better health.

Mercury amalgams increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
There is no link between Mercury (or silver) amalgams and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the very best available scientific evidence today. Originally this concern was brought about by the fact that these commonmyths about alzheimers - article from Sage Institute dental amalgams for teeth comprised of approximately 50% mercury, 15% tin and 35% silver. As Mercury is a heavy metal that can be quite toxic in certain forms, particularly to the brain and other organs, it became a cause for concern. However, after further scientific studies, it is now considered that Mercury amalgams show no major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. This position is endorsed by many large public health agencies including the US FDA, who continue to endorse Mercury amalgams.

Treatments are available to inhibit the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
Once again, this is another myth that we would love to believe, however at this time there is no treatment available to delay, cure or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s. At best, there are FDA approved drugs that can temporarily slow some symptoms for an average of 6 to 12 months, for approximately 50% of the individuals who take them.

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Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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