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Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease | What’s the Difference?

dementia and Alzheimers

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably, but it’s essential to know the difference.

  • Dementia is a general term for symptoms caused by physical disorders affecting the brain.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all diagnoses.

Every case of Alzheimer’s disease is an example of dementia, but not every type of dementia is Alzheimer’s.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is the name for a group of disorders in the brain that make it hard to remember, think clearly, make decisions, and control emotions. Alzheimer’s disease is one of those brain disorders. But there are many other types and causes of dementia.

Dementia isn’t just about losing memory — like forgetting someone’s name or where your keys are. Symptoms of dementia are at least two of the following:

  • Memory loss, both short-term and long-term
  • Communication and speech
  • Focus and concentration
  • Problem solving and judgment
  • Visual perception 

It can be challenging for a doctor to figure out which dementia you or your loved one has because they can share similar symptoms.

The differences in symptoms have to do with the area of the brain each type of dementia affects. For example, Alzheimer’s disease generally involves most of the brain. Frontotemporal dementia affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain (hence the name) – the areas commonly associated with personality and behavior.

It explains why personality changes are usually more apparent in frontotemporal dementia than in the early stage of Alzheimer’s.

Types of Dementia

Vascular dementia: Approximately one in ten people with dementia have vascular dementia, the second most common type. Vascular dementia happens when there’s not enough blood going to your brain, caused by damaged blood vessels or blockages that lead to mini-strokes. 

Dementia with Lewy bodies: Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of a protein that build up in the learning and memory part of your brain.

This type of dementia causes problems with attention and things like driving early on, sleeping issues, hallucinations, and unbalanced movements, similar to Parkinson’s disease. Memory loss shows up later in the condition.

Mixed dementia: Sometimes, changes are caused by two or more types of dementia. For example, you may have vascular dementia (blocked or damaged blood vessels in your brain) and Alzheimer’s disease (brain plaques and tangles) simultaneously.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD): This form involves the loss of nerve cells in your brain’s front and side areas. The main symptoms are personality and behavior changes and trouble with languages. Some have a hard time with writing and comprehension.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD): This is the rarest form of dementia and happens when a protein folds into an abnormal shape, and other proteins follow suit. It damages brain cells and triggers a fast mental decline. CJD can also cause mood changes, confusion, twitchy or jerky movements, and trouble walking. 

Huntington’s disease: Is heredity and affects the central part of your brain that helps you think, move and show emotion. Symptoms usually start between the ages of 30 and 50. The first signs are uncontrolled arm, leg, head, face, and upper body movements. It also leads to problems with memory, concentration, judgment, reasoning, and planning. 

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD): 60% – 80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition and usually affects people over 65 years old. It is thought to be caused by the build-up of proteins in and around cells. The proteins form plaques, deposits around the cells and tangles within cells. 

How to Slow the Progression of Dementia

There is no sure way to prevent all types of dementia, as researchers are still studying how the condition develops. However, there is excellent evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk and even slow down dementia by:

  • Keeping physically active. 
  • Healthy eating. 
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Drink less alcohol. 
  • Stay mentally and socially active. 
  • Take control of your health.

Visit Avista Memory Care in Albuquerque

If you are a family member of a loved one with dementia, consider visiting our memory care community in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At Avista Senior Living, we offer specialized care for all types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Our friendly staff is specially trained to provide the perfect level of care your loved one needs to stay sharp. 

Providing Care for Dementia and Alzheimer Sufferers

We help your loved one maintain cognitive abilities, provide a safe environment, manage behavior problems and help them have the highest possible quality of life. Please come by and see what Avista senior care is all about. 


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