'Common Myths about Alzheimer’s disease' by Dr. Domenico Pratico
Updated: May 31
For patients and caregivers, getting the facts about Alzheimer’s disease is essential.
Unfortunately, there is also so much misinformation associated with intrinsic fear that may
create an Alzheimer's stigma. Additionally, sometimes popular media can generate myths around the disease some of which are easy to clear up, but others are not and they can be harmful. Below is a list of some of the most common myths:
Myth 1: Memory loss is a natural part of aging
Fact: As people age, it is normal to have occasional memory problems, such as forgetting the name of a person you have recently met. However, Alzheimer's disease is more than occasional memory loss. It causes an individual to forget the name of a longtime friend or what roads to take to return to a home they have lived in for decades. However, sometimes the problems are caused by medication side effects, vitamin deficiencies, or other conditions and can be reversed with treatment.
Myth 2: Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal.
Fact: Alzheimer's disease has no survivors.
Myth 3: Only older people can get Alzheimer's.
Fact: Alzheimer's disease can strike people in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s. This is called
younger-onset Alzheimer's. It is estimated that today there are more than 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This includes 5.2 million people age 65 and older, and 200,000 people younger than age 65 with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Myth 4: Drinking from aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Fact: During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s
disease. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids, and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role of aluminum in causing the disease.
Myth 5: Aspartame causes memory loss.
Fact: This artificial sweetener, marketed under such brand names as Equal or Nutrasweet, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in all foods and beverages in 1996. Since approval, concerns about aspartame's health effects have been raised. According to the FDA, the agency had not been presented with any scientific evidence that would lead to a change in its conclusions on the safety of aspartame for most people.
Myth 6: Flu shots increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Fact: A theory linking flu shots to a greatly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been
proposed. However, several important studies link flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and overall better health.
Myth 7: Silver dental fillings increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease
Fact: The best available scientific evidence shows no relationship between silver dental fillings and Alzheimer's disease. The original concern that there could be a link arose because "silver" fillings are made of an amalgam (mixture) that typically contains about 50 percent mercury, 35 percent silver, and 15 percent tin. Mercury is a heavy metal that, in certain forms is known to be toxic to the brain and other organs.
The FDA, the U.S. Public Health Service, and the World Health Organization endorse the continued use of amalgam as a safe, robust, and inexpensive material for dental restoration.
Domenico Praticò, MD, is the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research, Professor and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, and Professor of Pharmacology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University