Myths still abound about Alzheimer#039;s

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Some change in memory is normal as we grow older, but the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are more than simple lapses in memory.

People with Alzheimer's experience difficulties communicating, learning, thinking and reasoning; in other words, there are problems severe enough to have an impact on an individual's work, social activities and family life.

However, there are some myths that abound when it comes to the frightening realities of Alzheimer's.

Myth 1: Memory loss is a natural part of aging. The reality is that today, experts recognize severe memory loss as a symptom of a serious illness, even though there is still much research being done on whether memory naturally declines with aging.

Myth 2: Alzheimer's disease is not fatal. The reality is that Alzheimer's is a fatal disease, but because many patients with Alzheimer's have other illnesses common in older age, the actual cause of death may be no single factor.

Myth 3: Drinking out of aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer's disease. The reality is that most researchers believe that not enough evidence exists to consider aluminum a risk factor for Alzheimer's or as a cause of dementia.

Myth 4: Aspartame causes memory loss. The reality is that no scientific evidence has found any link between this sweetener and memory loss.

Myth 5: There are therapies available to stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The reality is that at this time, there is no medical treatment to cure or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease. FDA-approved drugs may temporarily improve or stabilize memory and thinking skills in some individuals.

There is no clear-cut line between normal changes and warning signs. It is always a good idea to check with a doctor if a person's level of function seems to be changing. The Alzheimer's Association believes that it is critical for people diagnosed with dementia and their families to receive information, care and support as early as possible.