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What is the difference between dementia and alzheimer’s disease?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are related but distinct terms that are often used interchangeably. Here’s the difference between the two.

England and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton was diagnosed with dementia in 2020.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms related to cognitive decline, while Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia characterised by progressive memory loss and cognitive impairment.

Other forms of dementia exist, each with their own underlying causes and specific symptoms. This includes vascular dementia, a result of reduced blood flow to the brain, and frontotemporal dementia, which can cause significant changes in behaviour, among others.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.

Dementia v Alzheimer’s

Dementia is a broad term used to describe a group of symptoms characterized by a decline in cognitive functioning that affects a person’s daily life. It is not a specific disease but rather a syndrome caused by various underlying conditions. The symptoms of dementia include memory loss, impaired judgment, difficulties with language and communication, problems with reasoning and problem-solving, and changes in mood and behaviour. Dementia can be caused by a range of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and others.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases. It is a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s is characterised by the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits, being amyloid plaques and tau tangles, in the brain, which disrupt the normal functioning of neurons and ultimately leads to their death.

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are older adults, although early-onset cases can occur in people under the age of 65.