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5 Myths About Alzheimer's Disease

Myth No. 4: There are treatments that stop the disease from getting worse.

While certain treatments can help against Alzheimer's symptoms, “there’s no current way to stop or slow” the disease itself, says Heather M. Snyder, PhD, of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Snyder warns against supplements, diets, or regimens that claim to cure it. No evidence shows they're useful treatments for the disease.

Five medications are FDA-approved to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms: donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne), memantine (Namenda), rivastigmine (Exelon), and tacrine (Cognex).

These medications might help with thinking, memory, language skills, and some behavioral problems. But they don’t work for everyone. If they do work, the relief is usually temporary. Someone with the condition “may do better for a year or so at best,” Perry says.

Myth No. 5: Alzheimer’s is caused by aluminum, flu shots, silver fillings, or aspartame.

You may have heard that cooking with aluminum pans or drinking from aluminum cans causes Alzheimer’s. But there’s no scientific evidence to back that claim.

Some people think the artificial sweetener aspartame causes it. No evidence supports that theory either.

Others think silver dental fillings raise your risk. Again, there’s not much to go on.

Another false belief is that flu shots cause Alzheimer’s. Research suggests the opposite is true: Vaccinations can lower your risk and boost your overall health.

Experts don’t know what causes the disease. It might be a mix of factors tied to genes, environment, and lifestyle. Some research suggests it might be related to health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. There’s a lot of research under way, but the results aren’t yet clear.

Scientists are becoming more interested in the possible role of lifestyle factors. Snyder says a healthy diet, exercise, being social, and doing things that challenge your mind might lower your risk. Since the research is still early on, the exact “lifestyle recipe” is unknown, though.

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Reviewed on January 23, 2015

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