Dementia and Alzheimer's disease: what's the difference?

Over 47 million people across the world are living with dementia and there are 7.7 million new cases globally each year, according to the World Health Organization. (1) Although dementia commonly affects older people, it is not a normal part of ageing. In fact, in the UK  19 out of 20 over-65s and 4 in 5 over-80s aren't affected by dementia. (2)

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition of the brain which causes a gradual loss of mental ability, including problems with memory, understanding, judgement, thinking and language. Other problems commonly develop such as changes in personality. (3)

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, causing about half of all cases. In Alzheimer's the brain shrinks and the numbers of nerve fibres in the brain gradually reduce. The amounts of brain chemicals which help to send messages between brain cells are also reduced. Alzheimer's gradually worsens over time.

What can be done to cut your risks of developing Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia?

Currently, there are no specific medicines or treatments which are definitely known to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia. However, there are certain lifestyle factors which can help to cut your dementia or Alzheimer's risk. For example, cutting your salt intake if you have high blood pressure or keeping your brain active is thought to help limit your risk level. (4)

References:

1. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs362/en/

2. http://patient.info/blogs/sarah-says/dementia-affecting-a-loved-one-spotting-the-early-signs

3. http://patient.info/health/memory-loss-and-dementia#nav-1

4. http://patient.info/blogs/sarah-says/preventing-dementia-what-you-can-do