Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia: What’s The Difference?

elderly man thinking
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are NOT the same. You can have a form of dementia that’s completely unrelated to Alzheimer’s disease. According to the National Institute on Aging, dementia is a type of brain disorder that impacts performance of daily activities and communication.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a single disease, but a non-specific illness syndrome, or a set of signs and symptoms. Dementia refers to a decline in cognitive function (such as a loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills), to the extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. The term dementia is intended to describe the spectrum of severity, ranging from the mildest to the most severe stages—regardless of the cause.

According to studies, African Americans have a greater risk of Alzheimer’s than whites if another family member has suffered from it.

What Causes Dementia?

The most common causes are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. However, there are many causes of dementia. Some forms are due to degeneration of neurons, while others are due to disturbances in other body systems that result in neuronal dysfunction.

Neurodegenerative means that neurons (which are brain cells) gradually degenerate (cease to function or function inappropriately, and, eventually die). This death of brain cells impairs the neuron-to-neuron connections, called synapses—which is where and how messages are passed along in your brain). This “disconnect” can results in a range of dysfunction.

Dementia Symptoms

In addition to memory loss, early clinical symptoms will likely include:

• Confusion about the location of usually familiar places
• Taking longer to accomplish normal daily tasks
• Trouble handling money and paying bills
• Poor judgment leading to bad decisions
• Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
• Mood and personality changes, and increased anxiety

Dementia is the term applied to a group of symptoms that negatively impact memory, but Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease of the brain that slowly causes impairment in memory and cognitive function.

The National Institute of Health estimate that more than 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. Although younger people can and do get Alzheimer’s,…