Sep 10, 2016

Dispelling Dementia’s Myths

Dispelling Dementia’s Myths

By Elaine C Pereira
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Most of the questions asked of me or other presenters during seminars are meaningful and appropriate. But they also reflect a lack of clarity that still permeates what the general public understands.

Quoting someone: “there are no stupid questions.” I’m grateful to help anyone expand their knowledge and dispel the myths about dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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The following questions come up frequently enough that I wanted to share the information to a broader base of readers.

1. Do men with dementia/Alzheimer’s exhibit more anger/hostility than women do?

There does not appear to be any indication that men with Alzheimer’s react more violently because of their disease than women do. To date, I haven’t found any research to suggest that gender plays a role in the onset or severity of aggression.

That said, however, men are generally stronger physically and taller than women so the playing field isn’t equal between them. Sports teams are separated by gender in part for that reason. Therefore a man not otherwise compromised physically by other health conditions can yield a stronger blow than most women as agitation and violent behaviors escalate due to a compromised judgment, confusion, etc.
From I Will Never Forget
“I have a bone to pick with you!” (Mom) said angrily. Before I knew it, she pirouetted on one leg and hurled her right foot into my butt and kicked me.
Interesting too that there are more women with later stage Alzheimer’s than men because in general women live longer even with this disease.

2. Is it true that dementia is more common among educated people?

Actually research supports the exact opposite:

"Life experiences that engage the brain, such as higher educational attainment in this case, may protect against biological changes in the brain that underlie Alzheimer’s."

My internist and I both lost our mothers to Alzheimer’s coincidently in the same month. Even he said, “You know, educated people run a higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s.”

I was so taken aback by his remark, to which I didn't agree but didn’t have an immediate come back, that I said nothing. Now I’m not so quiet to help dispel this myth.

3. Is the incidence of Alzheimer’s more prevalent in some countries than others? Is there an ethnic correlation or protection?

My mother had a saying – she had a lot of them actually, some of which made no sense even before her dementia – “The more we learn, the less we know.” It probably wasn’t an original observation, but her point applies here.

There are detailed studies about the incidence of cognitive impairments and AD (Alzheimer’s disease) in the US among people with differing ethnic backgrounds. Additionally research has followed people native to other countries, but still there is no specific, proven, clear differentiation across cultural and country borders.

As we learn more especially along diagnostic lines, the data will be more definitive and less blurry. There are too many variables. It doesn’t appear at this time, that one ethnicity protects or makes one more vulnerable to AD.

4. Is Alzheimer’s genetic?

Yes and No. We are all determined by our genetics; height, eye color and yes genes for diseases like Muscular Dystrophy. And by contrast, we have control over environmental variables that “shape us” such as managing our weight, being social, active and by extension healthier.

Alzheimer’s is an age related disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 50% of people age 85 and older have or will develop dementia.

Many variables, too many actually, contribute to whether someone presents with Alzheimer’s. At a minimum, age, health habits and genetics are among them.

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Elaine C Pereira donates from every copy of I Will Never Forget to help support Alzheimer’s research. "Help Me Help Others" Buy a Book!

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