When thinking of dementia, most of us think about memory loss but this is only one of the six ways dementia can change how our mind works. To receive a diagnosis of dementia, you need to have your cognition change in two of the following six ways:
- Complex Attention
- Executive Functioning
- Language (expressive and receptive)
Alzheimer’s is classified as a disease but it is more complex than that. “In contrast to diseases in which bacteria, toxins, tumor formation or specific genes are clearly implicated in causation, it is more difficult to sustain consistent arguments and reach consensus about a phenomenon like Alzheimer’s where, aside from the contribution of aging itself, causation is undeniably complex and remains, for all intents and purposes, unknown,” explains Margaret Lock in her book The Alzheimer’s Conundrum.
Thanks to the “Nun Study” on aging and Alzheimer’s disease, our beliefs are changing. For the first time, we are looking for plaques and tangles, which are thought to be key in the progression of the disease, in people without Alzheimer’s symptoms. All the nuns who appeared to have Alzheimer’s in life had it confirmed post-mortem. Shockingly, so did the sisters who never exhibited signs of dementia. This means the plaques and tangles are correlated to Alzheimer’s but are not its sole cause as some individuals avoid being symptomatic.