According to 2020 data published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, there are currently about 5.8 million people aged 65 years or older with dementia in the United States alone. And researchers expect that number to increase to roughly 13.8 million people by 2050—more than double what it is today. While that fact more than warrants the attention of anyone who hopes to stay healthy as the age, the average person knows surprising little about dementia and other cognitive health conditions. And as is often the case, a vague understanding of something often leads to misconceptions and false information accepted as fact. That’s why we’re providing some clarity, so you can get your facts straight once and for all. Here are a few of the biggest dementia myths, including one in particular that just may surprise you. And for more on your cognitive health, check out 40 Habits to Reduce Your Risk of Dementia After 40.
Yes, these two conditions are very closely related, but their names are not interchangeable, though they are often incorrectly used that way. This Alzheimer’s Association puts it this way in their 2020 data report: “Dementia is an overall term for a particular group of symptoms. The characteristic symptoms of dementia are difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Dementia has many causes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.” So common, in fact, that Alzheimer’s accounts for about 60 percent to 80 percent of all dementia cases. And for more on this common form of dementia, check out 40 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Everyone Over 40 Should Know.
Dementia is commonly thought of as a difficult and, quite often, sad disease—and it is both of those things—but it’s rarely viewed as a deadly disease. The truth, however, is that it actually can be. In fact, a 2020 study published in JAMA Neurology came to the conclusion, after examining 7,342 older adults, that dementia had been significantly underreported as a cause of death in cases where that’s what should have been documented as the cause. And for more mind-related medical matters, here are 13 Reasons You’re Forgetting Things All the Time.
While you may get a little less mentally sharp as you get older, that doesn’t mean you’ll eventually develop dementia. In fact, it’s really not a normal part of the aging process at all when you look at the numbers. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2020 report, Alzheimer’s disease—again, the most common form of dementia—affects just around 3 percent of people between ages 65 and 74 in the U.S. In other words, the vast majority will not develop dementia in its most common form.
Finally, dementia almost always is thought to be a concern for people further along in age, but that is not true across the board. Not only do things we do in our earlier years often play a role in the development of dementia, but people as young as 30 have been diagnosed with the condition. In a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Neurology, researchers found that between 38 and 260 people per 100 000 individuals experience the onset of dementia between 30 and 64 years of age. And 420 per 100,000 people develop the disease between the ages of 55 and 64. And for more helpful information on health, entertainment, and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.