25 Jul All the myths you need to know about Alzheimer’s Disease
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is caused by extracellular amyloid proteins and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles (Sivaraman, et al., 2019). It gradually worsens over time and it is the cause of 60 to 70% of dementia cases in patients (World Health Organisation, 2019). Early symptoms usually include difficulty in remembering or recalling recent events and as the disease progresses, symptoms including problems in speech, language, mood swings, disorientation and many more becomes obvious (Jagust, et al., 2019).
People affected by Alzheimer’s Disease
People aged over 65 have higher chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Society, 2019). However, people younger than 65 can get Alzheimer’s disease as well and this type of Alzheimer’s disease is called early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Society, 2019).
Myth #1: Alzheimer’s = Dementia
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease do not mean the same thing. In fact, dementia is an umbrella term that refers to the loss of cognitive functioning like thinking, remembering and reasoning, and behavioural activities to the point that it affects the person’s daily life and activities (National Institute of Aging, 2017). There are many types of dementia and Alzheimer’s is one of them (National Institute of Aging, 2017).
Myth #2: Normal signs of aging means you have Alzheimer’s
Aging is a normal process in human life. Signs of normal aging include memory loss. The public often associate memory loss to Alzheimer’s. however, in Alzheimer’s, memory loss is indeed a common symptom but this kind of memory loss is a more serious problem as it affects the daily life of the patient to the extent that the patient becomes disoriented and need total dependent care from others whereas the memory loss in normal aging is just people not being able to recall things as quickly as when they were young and does not affect the ability of an individual to carry out everyday tasks (UCSF Memory and Aging Center, 2019). Hence, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging.
Myth #3: Alzheimer’s disease does not cause death
Alzheimer’s is one of the leading causes of death in various first world countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and many more. This is because as the symptoms gradually progresses, patients lose their physical and mental capacity. Pneumonia is the major cause of death in late-stage Alzheimer’s patients will develop (Kalia, 2003). This is due to Klebsiella pneumoniae, S aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae being frequently isolated in nursing home Alzheimer’s patients (Morrison and Siu, 2000).
Myth #4: Cardiovascular risks
Many data and evidence suggested that cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, smoking and so on are strongly correlated with the increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals (Pendlebury and Rothwell, 2009). The brain’s health is linked with the health of the heart and blood vessels. Our human brain is supplied with a vast network of blood vessels and a healthy heart ensures that enough oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood is pumped into the brain to function normally (Kalia, 2003).
Myth #5: Head trauma increases the risk of Alzheimer’s too
Moderate head trauma, head injury or traumatic brain injury are associated with the increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias while severe head injuries cause 4.5 times the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (Lye and Shores, 2000; Plassman, et al., 2000). Individuals who experienced mild head injury have shown no risk of Alzheimer’s. There are also studies that suggested individuals who are Apolipoprotein 4 (APOE4) carriers who experienced moderate or severe head injuries have high chances of getting Alzheimer’s than those who do not have the APOE4 carrier (Tang, 1996).
Myth #6: Cure for Alzheimer’s disease
So far, there is no cure to prevent or stop Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are a few drugs that have been approved in the market to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and improve the quality of life (Vickrey, et al., 2006). Those drugs are memantine, donepezil (Aricept), galantamine and rivastigmine (Vickrey, et al., 2006). Fortunately, researchers are currently working on new drugs that could possible target the disease directly and they are all on clinical trials now (Voisin and Vella, 2009).
Myth #7: Symptoms of Alzheimer’s are reversible
Despite that there are drugs available at the moment to slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, it is impossible to reverse the Alzheimer’s symptoms as it is a progressive disease (Next Avenue, 2016). Hence, the common scenario is a person still being able to function fairly normal during the early stage and then decline either slowly or rapidly (Next Avenue, 2016).
Myth #8: Mercury-induced Alzheimer’s disease
It is said that dental fillings can not only increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease but also causes mercury-induced Alzheimer’s disease because they contain a little amount of mercury and some other metals (Ely, 2001). Mercury binds to the tubulin and increases the tau protein phosphorylation (Syversen and Kaur, 2012). When abnormal tau proteins form, the microtubules in the brain will lose their support and the number of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) will increase (Bjørklund, et al., 2019).
In a nutshell, with all the myths and this disease, people can still live a meaningful life despite the challenge of tackling the symptoms at the same time. Alzheimer’s has been affecting many aging individuals around the world and it has become a prominent problem in many parts of the world including Spain. Scientists, healthcare professionals and governments have been searching for ways to ultimately cure Alzheimer’s disease and perhaps preventing it. Hence, Solmeglas has huge concern for this situation too and is always working closely with partnering research centers to contribute in helping the society to handle Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Society, 2019. Who gets Alzheimer’s Disease?. [online] Available at: <https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/types-dementia/who-gets-alzheimers-disease>
Bjørklund, G., Tinkov, A.A., Dadar, M., Rahman, M.M., Chirumbolo, S., Skalny, A.V., Skalnaya, M.G., Haley, B.E., Ajsuvakova, O.P. and Aaseth, J., 2019. Insights into the Potential Role of Mercury in Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience, 67(4), pp.511-533.
Ely, J.T.A., 2001. Mercury induced Alzheimer’s disease: accelerating incidence?. Bulletin of environmental contamination and toxicology, 67(6), pp.800-806.
Jagust, W., Jack, C.R., Bennett, D.A., Blennow, K., Haeberlein, S.B., Holtzman, D.M., Jessen, F., Karlawish, J., Liu, E., Molinuevo, J.L. and Montine, T., 2019. Alzheimer’s disease” is neither “Alzheimer’s clinical syndrome” nor “dementia. Alzheimer’s & dementia: the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 15(1), pp.153-157.
Kalia, M., 2003. Dysphagia and aspiration pneumonia in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Metabolism, 52, pp.36-38.
Lye, T.C. and Shores, E.A., 2000. Traumatic brain injury as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease: a review. Neuropsychology review, 10(2), pp.115-129.
Morrison, R.S. and Siu, A.L., 2000. Mortality From Pneumonia and Hip Fractures in Patients With Advanced Dementia—Reply. JAMA, 284(19), pp.2447-2448.
National Institute on Aging, 2017. What is Dementia? Symptoms, Types and Diagnosis. [online] Available at: <https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-dementia-symptoms-types-and-diagnosis>
Next Avenue, 2016. 8 Common Myths About Alzheimer’s. [online] Available at: <https://www.nextavenue.org/8-common-myths-alzheimers/>
Pendlebury, S.T. and Rothwell, P.M., 2009. Prevalence, incidence, and factors associated with pre-stroke and post-stroke dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Neurology, 8(11), pp.1006-1018.
Plassman, B.L., Havlik, R.J., Steffens, D.C., Helms, M.J., Newman, T.N., Drosdick, D., Phillips, C., Gau, B.A., Welsh–Bohmer, K.A., Burke, J.R. and Guralnik, J.M., 2000. Documented head injury in early adulthood and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Neurology, 55(8), pp.1158-1166.
Sivaraman, D., Anbu, N., Kabilan, N., Kumar, M.P., Shanmugapriya, P. and Christian, G.J., 2019. REVIEW ON CURRENT TREATMENT STRATEGY IN ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND ROLE OF HERBS IN TREATING NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS. Int J Trans Res Ind Med, 1(1), pp.33-43.
Syversen, T. and Kaur, P., 2012. The toxicology of mercury and its compounds. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 26(4), pp.215-226.
Tang, M., Maestre, G., Tsai, W.Y., Liu, X., Feng, L., Chung, W.Y., Chun, M., Schofield, P.R., Stern, Y., Tycko, B. and Mayeux, R.P., 1996. Effect of age, ethnicity, and head injury on the association between APOE genotypes and Alzheimer’s disease.
UCSF Memory and Aging Center, 2019. Healthy Aging. [online] Available at: < https://memory.ucsf.edu/symptoms/healthy-aging>
Vickrey, B.G., Mittman, B.S., Connor, K.I., Pearson, M.L., Della Penna, R.D., Ganiats, T.G., DeMonte, R.W., Chodosh, J., Cui, X., Vassar, S. and Duan, N., 2006. The effect of a disease management intervention on quality and outcomes of dementia care: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of internal medicine, 145(10), pp.713-726.
Voisin, T. and Vellas, B., 2009. Diagnosis and treatment of patients with severe Alzheimer’s disease. Drugs & aging, 26(2), pp.135-144.
World Health Organisation, 2019. Dementia. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia>