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What are 5 major misconceptions about Alzheimer's disease?

by Alliance America
October 11, 2023


Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. It is the most common cause of dementia, and it affects people of all ages. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, there are some ways that people can reduce their risk of developing the disease and to live full and meaningful lives.

Despite the growing body of knowledge about Alzheimer's disease, many misconceptions about the disease persist. These misconceptions can prevent people from getting the information and support they need, and they can lead to stigma and discrimination against individuals with Alzheimer's disease and their loved ones.

This article addresses five of the most common misconceptions about Alzheimer's disease. By dispelling these misconceptions, we can help to create a more understanding and supportive society for people with Alzheimer's disease and their loved ones.

Those misconceptions include:

Misconception No. 1: Alzheimer's disease is just a normal part of aging

Alzheimer's disease is often misunderstood as a natural consequence of growing older. However, this perception is a common misconception that needs to be debunked.

an age graph with figure people for each age listed

While it is true that the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with age, it is crucial to understand that Alzheimer's is not a typical part of the aging process. It is a progressive and irreversible neurological disorder that affects memory, cognitive functions and ultimately leads to profound disability.

Age-related memory decline can occur in many individuals, yet it differs significantly from the cognitive impairments caused by Alzheimer's disease. Normal age-related memory changes may include occasional forgetfulness or having trouble recalling information temporarily.

These lapses typically do not interfere with daily functioning and are not indicative of a serious underlying condition. On the other hand, Alzheimer's disease impairs multiple aspects of cognition over time, impacting memory, decision-making abilities, problem-solving skills and even basic tasks like dressing or feeding oneself.

To further emphasize this point, it is essential to recognize that aging does not automatically equate to developing Alzheimer's disease. Many older adults live vibrant lives without experiencing any signs or symptoms of dementia.

While age remains one risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease alongside genetic predisposition and certain health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, it does not guarantee its occurrence. Understanding that Alzheimer's disease is not an inevitable aspect of aging helps dispel common misconceptions surrounding this debilitating condition.

It is vital for individuals to recognize the distinction between normal age-related changes in memory and cognitive abilities versus the progressive neurological impairments associated with Alzheimer's disease. By raising awareness about this distinction, we can encourage timely diagnosis and appropriate interventions such as memory care programs tailored specifically for those affected by this devastating illness.

Misconception No. 2: There’s no difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia

When discussing Alzheimer's disease, it is crucial to understand the distinctions between Alzheimer's disease and dementia. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to different things.

Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of symptoms affecting cognitive function, including memory loss, impaired reasoning and difficulties with communication and daily activities. On the other hand, Alzheimer's disease is a specific type of dementia that accounts for around 60-80% of all cases.

One key difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia lies in their causes. Dementia can result from various conditions such as vascular problems or Parkinson's disease, whereas Alzheimer's disease specifically refers to the progressive brain disorder characterized by abnormal protein deposits (amyloid plaques) and tangled nerve fibers (neurofibrillary tangles).

Although certain types of dementia have genetic components, most cases of dementia do not run in families. Conversely, when it comes to Alzheimer's disease, there are instances where genetic mutations play a significant role in its development.

However, it must be noted that these familial cases account for only a small percentage of overall Alzheimer's diagnoses. Moreover, while both conditions share similar symptoms like memory loss and confusion, there are differences in how these symptoms manifest throughout the progression of each disorder.

In general terms, dementia tends to have a more sudden onset with symptoms gradually worsening over time. On the other hand, Alzheimer's disease typically has a slower onset with more gradual decline in cognitive abilities.

Understanding these differences between Alzheimer's disease and dementia is essential for individuals seeking proper medical care as well as for their caregivers or family members providing support. Accurate diagnosis is crucial since treatments and management strategies may vary depending on the specific condition involved.

Misconception No. 3: Only people in their 70s and older get Alzheimer's disease.

Misconceptions about Alzheimer's disease often lead people to believe that it exclusively affects individuals in their 70s and older. This misconception stems from the fact that age is a significant risk factor for developing the disease. However, it is crucial to understand that Alzheimer's can affect individuals of different age groups, including those well below their 70s.

It is true that the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease increases with advancing age, and most cases are diagnosed in individuals over the age of 65. This age-related risk is linked to various factors, such as the accumulation of brain changes over time and increased vulnerability due to aging processes.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that there are cases where individuals develop early-onset Alzheimer's disease, which occurs before the age of 65. In fact, approximately 5% of all cases fall into this category.

Early-onset Alzheimer's can be particularly devastating for both patients and their families. The impact on careers, finances and daily life can be significant since individuals affected by early-onset disease may still be employed or raising children when symptoms begin to manifest.

Additionally, diagnosis at a younger age can bring unique challenges related to health care coverage and support services. Understanding that Alzheimer's does not solely target older adults helps dispel this common misconception and sheds light on the importance of early detection across all ages.

Another reason why associating Alzheimer's only with older adults is erroneous lies in the potential impact on future generations. Research suggests that certain genetic mutations can increase an individual's likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease at a younger age.

Recognizing this broad spectrum in terms of onset allows for better understanding among health care professionals, researchers, caregivers and loved ones who must navigate this complex landscape while providing appropriate care and support. While advanced age remains a primary risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease, it would be incorrect to assume that only people aged 70 or above are susceptible to its effects.

This misconception overlooks the reality of early-onset cases and the potential impact of genetic factors on individuals at a younger age. By debunking this myth, we can foster a more inclusive understanding of Alzheimer's disease and promote proactive measures for prevention, diagnosis and compassionate care across all age groups.

Misconception No. 4: There is nothing that can be done to prevent Alzheimer's disease

wooden domino's falling with a silhouette of a person holding them up

One of the most pressing questions surrounding Alzheimer's disease is whether it can be prevented or delayed. While there is currently no foolproof method to completely prevent the onset of Alzheimer's, research suggests that certain lifestyle choices may help reduce the risk or delay its progression.

One such factor is maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Studies have found a strong link between heart health and brain health, indicating that conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Therefore, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and avoiding smoking, may contribute to reducing the risk. Additionally, staying mentally active throughout life has been associated with a lower risk of developing dementia.

Engaging in intellectually stimulating activities such as reading books, solving puzzles or crosswords, learning new skills or languages can potentially help preserve cognitive function and ward off cognitive decline. Social engagement is also crucial; maintaining strong social connections and participating in social activities may offer protection against Alzheimer's disease.

Furthermore, research indicates that an adequate amount of quality sleep plays a vital role in brain health. During sleep, the brain engages in critical processes for memory consolidation and waste removal.

Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia later in life. Therefore, prioritizing good sleep hygiene by following a regular sleep schedule and creating a calm sleeping environment could potentially contribute to reducing the risk.

While these lifestyle factors may not provide an absolute guarantee against developing Alzheimer's disease since it is influenced by various genetic and environmental factors as well, incorporating them into one's routine can promote overall health and potentially contribute to minimizing the risk or delaying its onset.

While we cannot definitively prevent Alzheimer's disease at this time, there are several lifestyle choices we can make that may reduce our risk or delay its onset. Maintaining a healthy heart through regular exercise, a balanced diet and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking, can contribute to a lower risk of Alzheimer's.

Staying mentally engaged and socially connected can help preserve cognitive function, while quality sleep is crucial for brain health. While no method is foolproof, adopting these lifestyle choices can promote overall well-being and potentially reduce the risk or delay the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Misconception No. 5: People with Alzheimer's disease can't live full and meaningful lives

While Alzheimer's disease may pose significant challenges, it is important to recognize that individuals with this condition can still lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

The impact of Alzheimer's varies from person to person, but with the right support and understanding, many individuals can continue to engage in activities they enjoy and maintain a sense of purpose. One aspect that contributes to a fulfilling life for those with Alzheimer's is providing them with a supportive environment.

Caregivers play a crucial role in creating an atmosphere that promotes independence and empowers individuals with the disease. By adapting living spaces to maximize safety and familiarity, ensuring regular routines are in place, and incorporating memory prompts like photographs or favorite objects, caregivers can help foster a sense of belonging and normalcy.

nurse assisting an elderly male

Engaging in stimulating activities is another important element for individuals living with Alzheimer's disease. These activities can range from puzzles and games specifically designed for cognitive stimulation to physical exercises tailored to their abilities.

Additionally, participating in arts and crafts programs or reminiscing sessions that encourage storytelling can be both enjoyable and therapeutic. These activities not only provide mental stimulation but also help maintain social connections, which are vital for emotional well-being.

Furthermore, connecting with support networks can greatly contribute to a fulfilling life for people living with Alzheimer's. Support groups offer opportunities for individuals to share their experiences, exchange coping strategies, and receive emotional support from others who understand their challenges firsthand.

These groups not only benefit those directly affected by the disease but also offer solace to caregivers by providing them an outlet to express their concerns or seek advice from others who have been through similar experiences. While the presence of Alzheimer's disease undoubtedly presents obstacles, it should not define the potential for a full and meaningful life for individuals affected by it.

By creating supportive environments, engaging in stimulating activities tailored to their abilities and connecting with support networks, people living with Alzheimer's can continue to find joy, purpose and a sense of belonging. It is important for society to foster understanding and provide the necessary resources to ensure that individuals with Alzheimer's disease can live with dignity and fulfillment, and their caregivers receive the support they need.


It is vital to debunk these common misconceptions surrounding Alzheimer's disease in order to foster a more accurate understanding. First, Alzheimer's disease should not be regarded as a normal part of aging. While it primarily affects older adults, it is not an inevitable consequence of growing older.

Age is just one risk factor among many, and there are individuals who remain mentally sharp well into their golden years. Secondly, it is crucial to differentiate between Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Dementia is an umbrella term for various cognitive impairments, while Alzheimer's disease specifically refers to the most common form of dementia. Understanding this distinction helps dispel the notion that all memory-related issues are solely attributed to Alzheimer's disease.

Moreover, the misconception that only individuals in their 70s and older can develop Alzheimer's disease disregards the fact that early-onset cases can occur in people as young as their 30s or 40s. It is important for all age groups to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms associated with this illness.

While there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, research suggests that certain lifestyle choices may help reduce the risk or delay its onset. Engaging in regular physical exercise, maintaining a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, staying mentally active through reading or puzzles, managing stress levels effectively and maintaining strong social connections have all been linked to potentially lowering the risk of developing this condition.

Despite the challenges posed by Alzheimer's disease, individuals living with this condition can still lead meaningful lives with appropriate care and support systems. Memory care facilities equipped with specialized programs focused on enhancing cognitive function and quality of life exist for those requiring extra assistance.

Additionally, caregivers play a pivotal role in providing love and support throughout the journey of those affected by Alzheimer's disease. Through continued research efforts and increased awareness about this illness within our society – including proper funding from entities like Medicare and Medicaid to support healthcare initiatives – we can work toward a future where the impact of Alzheimer's disease is minimized, and individuals affected can lead fulfilling lives with dignity.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company dedicated to the art of personal financial planning. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.

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