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Alzheimer's Disease

Preventing Senile Dementia

05/18/2000

Question:

At 83, my mother was diagnosed with senile dementia. Her mother also had dementia. What is the difference between senile dementia and Alzheimer`s Disease? I am in my early 50`s. Since this can be inherited, what can I be doing to improve my odds of not getting this disease? I exercise regularly, take Vitamin E, and keep mentally as well as physically active.

Answer:

Senile dementia is an older, obsolete term that referred only to the onset of a dementing illness after age 65. Dementia itself may be defined as an acquired loss of cognitive functioning including memory, language, visual-spatial function, planning, judgment, and abstraction. Dementia is a symptom, not a disease, and as such, is similar to cough or fever or pain -- that is, it is not a diagnosis in itself. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-70% of cases, and is associated with progressive loss of memory and cognitive functions. The majority of cases of AD are sporadic -- that is, there is no identifiable family history. Only about 5% are due to an identifiable genetic cause, and this is an area of intense research at this time. In terms of prevention, it sounds like you are doing the most basic thing -- living life to its fullest. Mental and physical activities are reported to have protective effects in studies of AD epidemiology. There is no data on long term vitamin e therapy; however, community surveys have shown that individuals with lower blood levels of vitamin e are more likely to be demented than those with high blood vitamin e levels. vitamin e is also very safe. Other medications such as estrogen replacement therapy or long-term anti-inflammatory medications take more monitoring due to increased possibility of side effects. However, both of these types of medications are reported to also protect againbst development of AD. Thank you for your question

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Response by:

Jon Stuckey, PhD
Formerly
Case Western Reserve University

Alan J Lerner, MD
Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University