Busting Three Myths About What Causes Alzheimer’s

Dementia Myths

Alzheimer’s is a mysterious disease that affects over five million Americans and 47 million people across the globe. Alzheimer’s has no cure, so it’s understandable that people want to know what causes the disease and how they might avoid it. Research has been slow to unwind the mysteries of the disease, so, unsurprisingly many myths, rumors, and speculation have popped up to fill in the gaps.

We must be careful to distinguish fact from fiction. Believing false information can actually be dangerous, for example, if an elderly person avoids getting a flu shot and then later becomes sick. Let’s bust three common Alzheimer’s myths:

1.      Aluminum Causes Alzheimer’s

One of the earliest dementia rumors to surface claimed that aluminum increased the risk of getting Alzheimer’s. This idea had seniors tossing out cans of soup, soda cans, even pots and pans. Though this rumor has been around since the 1960s, no study has found a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s.

2.      Artificial Sweeteners Cause Alzheimer’s

Artificial sweeteners aren’t exactly healthy for humans, but do they increase the risk of Alzheimer’s? One rumor points the finger at a specific sweetener called Aspartame, which can be found in Nutrasweet and Equal. As of this writing, the FDA has not found any evidence linking Aspartame or other artificial sweeteners with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

3.      Flu Shots Cause Alzheimer’s

The idea that flu shots can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s is perhaps the most dangerous rumor of all, because it may discourage the elderly population from getting the shot. In fact, the flu (or influenza) is at least a contributing factor in thousands of deaths in the United States each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the 2012 – 2013 influenza season claimed 56,000 lives in the U.S. alone. Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable populations, so a flu shot can literally mean the difference between life and death.

What Does Cause Alzheimer’s?

One of the reasons why these types of rumors get started is because the truth about the causes behind Alzheimer’s are complex and not easily explained. Researchers also have a long way to go in fully understanding the complex interactions of multiple factors that can lead to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

What we do know currently is that age is the greatest risk factor to getting Alzheimer’s. Family history and genetics also play a significant role. A lot of fascinating research is currently looking into lifestyle factors that may impact Alzheimer’s, but again, the picture emerging is very complex.

If you have questions about what may or may not be connected with an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s, there are many great, trustworthy resources, like the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s.gov, and the National Institute on Aging.

Still have questions, or want to meet other families and caregivers facing Alzheimer’s? If you live in Poway, 4S Ranch, or San Diego County, we invite you to attend our free monthly caregiver support group, which is open to the public!


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