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KRON 4 | How to Know If It’s Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Did you know nearly 700,000 Californians and 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease? 

Alzheimer’s vs Dementia: Which Is It?

The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings. 


  • Dementia is the name of a group of symptoms. It is a not a disease per se, but a syndrome that affects cognition function.
  • Dementia is the stage when brain cells are dying, and is usually irreversible.
  • To be called dementia, the symptoms must be severe enough that it disrupts a person’s ability to independently perform activities of daily living. For example, forgetting where you put your car keys once in a while is not dementia.
  • This syndrome is caused by various conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, depression, Lyme disease, and AIDS.


  • Alzheimer’s disease is a specific brain disorder (falling under the umbrella of dementia) that progressively and irreversibly destroys memory, thinking skills, and affects behavior. 
  • Alzheimer’s disease is named after a German physician, Aloïs Alzheimer, who first described it in 1906.
    Alzheimer’s is characterized by amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fibers in the brain
  • Alzheimer’s is characterized by two abnormalities: 1) neuron-destroying clumps (amyloid plaques) and 2) tangled bundles of fibers (neurofibrillary tangles or tau) in the brain.
  • Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80% of dementia cases.

Early Diagnosis is Key

There are many causes for dementia symptoms, which determines how it is treated. 

To diagnose Alzheimer’s, doctors must use a variety of assessments and laboratory measurements since there is no single test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s with 100% accuracy. See KRON 4 | Smell Test to Detect Alzheimer’s

Top 10 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Know what’s normal and what’s not:

1. Memory loss
Normal: Forgetting names or appointments occasionally.

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks (e.g., preparing a meal, placing a phone call)
Normal: Occasionally forgetting why you walked into a room.

3. Forgetting simple words or names of everyday objects
Normal: Forgetting what you planned to say

4. Disorientation to time and place
Normal: Forgetting the day of the week or where you parked your car.

5. Poor or decreased judgement(e.g., dressing inappropriately or giving away large sums of money to telemarketers)
Normal: Making a questionable decision from time to time.

6. Forgetting what numbers are for and how they are used
Normal: Finding it challenging to balance a checkbook.

7. Placing things in inappropriate places
Normal: Misplacing keys or wallet temporarily.

8. Rapid swings in mood or behavior
Normal: Feeling sad or moody on occasion.

9. Dramatic changes in personality
Normal: It’s normal for personalities to change somewhat with age.

10. Loss of initiative
Normal: Feeling overworked and occasionally opting out of social obligations.

For more information, go to The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s.

Karen’s Fit Tip: While researchers have been unable to find a cure for Alzheimer’s or another dementia, the new research is now proving there are ways to preserve brain health, which we’ll be covering in our next health segment.


Karen Owoc

Karen Owoc is a certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist specializing in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and lifestyle medicine. Her science-based approach to longevity, nutrition, and muscle health has made her the go-to source for health seekers and medical professionals alike. Karen's best-selling book on functional longevity, "Athletes in Aprons: The Nutrition Playbook to Break 100", and her transformative perspective have mended many minds, hearts, and spirits.

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