The truth about Alzheimer's: We've sorted fact from fiction

With so much conflicting information out there, it can be difficult to determine what’s true and what’s not about Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s can be a debilitating disease and is a significant factor when it comes to developing dementia. Experts believe the number of Australians with Alzheimer’s and dementia will grow from 342,800 to 400,000 over the next ten years, and will require more funding and government support. One of the best ways to understand the disease is know what’s real and what’s rumour. Take a look at the myths below and tell us if any of them surprised you.

1. Myth: Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal.

Reality: Despite what many people think, Alzheimer’s can be fatal. In the early stages of the disease, Alzheimer’s targets certain cells in the brain associated with memory. As it develops, however, it moves to other areas of the brain and affects essential systems in our bodies, causing them to break down over time. This, coupled with the fact that Alzheimer’s is usually found in older people who suffer from other conditions at the same time, can lead to death.

2. Myth: Drinking out of aluminium cans or cooking in aluminium pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Reality: There have been suggestions there is a link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s, but the research around the issue is still being debated in medical circles. While there is some data to suggest a correlation between the two, doctors agree there is not enough evidence to definitively say aluminum is a risk factor in developing the disease.

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3. Myth: Memory loss is a natural part of ageing.

Reality: We often associate memory loss with age, believing it is par for the course as we get older. However, experts now acknowledge that severe memory loss is a sign of illness and needs to be addressed in its own right. While many of us report feeling a little fuzzy and unable to remember things like we used to as we age, there is no scientific proof to back up a link between memory loss and ageing.

4. Myth: Depression causes Alzheimer’s disease.

Reality: The debate over the link between depression and Alzheimer’s has been going for some time now. While depression can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, there is no evidence to suggest it directly causes Alzheimer’s. There are over 1 million Australians suffering from depression, and 342,800 suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. The large gap between these numbers suggests that depression is not a significant factor in developing Alzheimer’s.

5. Myth: Exercise, diet, and an active mind prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Reality: While regular exercise, a healthy diet, and an active mind are all linked to lower odds of developing Alzheimer’s, there is no scientific evidence to say they prevent Alzheimer’s all together. A healthy and active person can still develop Alzheimer’s, while a couch-potato may go their entire life without significant health issues. Doctors are still trying to determine an exact link between the two, but say in the meantime people should stick to a more active lifestyle and nutritious diet to sustain their overall quality of life.

Were you surprised by any other these myths? Do you worry about developing Alzheimer’s or dementia?