Get the Facts: Realities and Myths about Alzheimer’s Disease
Did you know that drinking from aluminum cans is not a risk factor for Alzheimer’s? If you’ve been tricked by this myth, it’s time to update your knowledge.
We’re here to clear up some myths about Alzheimer’s disease. Read on for the facts you need, including an overview of risk factors, signs of early onset, and prevention tips.
Among the most persistent Alzheimer’s fallacies is the belief that exposure to aluminum might lead to the disease. It’s a myth that drinking from aluminum cans, cooking in aluminum pots, and using antiperspirants made with aluminum may lead to Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, research has never proven a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s.
Other risk factor myths include:
- Flu shots. A false theory that flu shots may lead to Alzheimer’s has been disproven by several studies. In fact, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that flu shots actually reduce the risk of death in elderly people from a range of possible causes.
- Dental fillings. Silver dental fillings have been targeted as another possible culprit leading to Alzheimer’s. But the Alzheimer’s Association notes that many studies have shown no link between fillings and the disease. One such study published by the American Dental Association found that silver fillings have no significant link to Alzheimer’s.
- Only the elderly. It’s a myth that only older people can get Alzheimer’s disease. In fact the Alzheimer’s Association states that people as young as their thirties can develop the condition. Memory loss or other cognitive problems may be signs of early onset Alzheimer’s. But since it can be hard to diagnose, a doctor should perform a medical evaluation to help make a diagnosis.
The Alzheimer’s Association identifies three primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s:
- Age. While it’s true that the majority of patients with Alzheimer’s are at least 65 years old, it’s possible to develop early onset Alzheimer’s or dementia at a much younger age. Despite this fact, it’s also true that after age 65, your risk of developing the disease increases approximately every five years.
- Genetics. Certain genes have been linked to a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s. These genes fall under two types called “risk genes” and “deterministic genes.”
- Family history. If you have a family member who has Alzheimer’s, then you will have a higher risk of developing the disease yourself.
Risk Factors You Can Control
Although there’s nothing you can do about the three main factors noted above, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that some research shows there may be additional risk factors within your control:
- Head trauma. There may be a link between Alzheimer’s and past head trauma, particularly when the injury causes loss of consciousness. Take steps to protect your brain by wearing a seat belt and putting on a helmet to ride a bike or play sport. Elderly people may want to take steps to “fall-proof” their home.
- Heart health. It appears that many conditions that affect the heart or damage blood vessels may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. These include conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Making healthy choices to reduce your risk of these conditions—such as eating a healthy, low-fat diet and exercising regularly—might also reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
- Healthy aging. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that good practices for “general healthy aging” may also “offer some protection against developing Alzheimer’s or related disorders.” They suggest maintaining a healthy weight, exercising your body and mind regularly, avoiding tobacco, and not over-consuming alcohol.
Know the Facts
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are currently no known methods that are proven to prevent Alzheimer’s. However, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and staying socially and mentally active may help reduce your risk.
Remember that according to the Alzheimer’s Association, occasional memory loss happens naturally with aging and does not indicate the condition is present. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about memory loss or other cognitive changes.