sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Are We Over-Estimating Our Alzheimer’s Risk? It Depends… 

We seem to be inundated with stories of doom and gloom on the likelihood of our acquiring Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia. In fact, if you listen to the varied and disparate reports we seem to be inundated with lately, none of us will escape the onslaught.

However, are we taking it all too much to heart and living our lives in fear of something we may never experience?

A lot of the fear around Alzheimer’s is based on the little knowledge supplied to us by the media, and we all know that’s a dangerous thing. So, let’s start by defining dementia.

Of course, none of the information in this article should be considered medical advice. And, you should definitely talk with your doctor if you have any questions about dementia, in general, or Alzheimer’s specifically. That said, I hope that you find this information useful as a starting point.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a chronic and persistent disorder of the mental processes. It’s caused by brain injury or disease, with patients displaying personality changes, impaired reasoning and memory lapses/loss.

It used to be associated with mental illness, insanity, lunacy – to the point that patients were often committed to a local mental hospital.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

It’s important to understand that Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, but the term is sometimes (incorrectly) used to describe all forms of dementia.

Many organisations use “Alzheimer’s” in their name, to indicate that they specialise in dementia, either as a charity or a research body or some other organisation.

It’s a little like vacuum cleaner and Hoover. In many parts of the world, we vacuum our floors (I know, not strictly the correct use of the word), but in the UK, they Hoover the floors. It’s the brand name of the product associated with the task rather than the function of the tool.

The Four Main Types of Dementia

Rather than go into all of the details here, I thought that it would be useful to link to resources on each of the main types of dementia.

The signs and symptoms of each of these branches of dementia are slightly different. It’s also possible to develop a combination of the different types of dementia. Naturally, diagnosis can prove to be difficult.

The Real Risk of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a disease that represents between 60% and 80% of all dementia diagnoses. The WHO (World Health Organisation) predicts that by 2050 there will be 115 million cases worldwide, which represents 1.3% of the world’s population.

The majority of these cases will be women, who are more likely to have Alzheimer’s.

But, the percentage of people who have any form of dementia is much lower than we think. Are we creating stress and anxiety for ourselves by becoming fixated on the possibility that we may become demented?!

Can Anxiety Cause More Harm Than the Disease?

So, this provokes the question: Can our anxiety harm us more than the disease itself? The answer is no. Although, a recent study has shown that stress and anxiety can increase the risk of depression and dementia.

Additionally, chronic stress can cause the brain’s Hippocampus to atrophy. The Hippocampus is important for long-term memory and spatial awareness.

What We Should Not Believe

Here are a few things that we should not believe:

  • Being overweight protects you from dementia.
  • Aspartame causes dementia.
  • Grazoph Temuna, which is promoted online as a cure for Alzheimer’s, is NOT a cure – for anything.
  • Certain vitamins and nutrients can reverse Alzheimer’s.

What We Should Believe

Current research shows that Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are caused by not one thing, though age, genetics, medical conditions and lifestyle choices are certainly important factors.

Overall, the science leans more heavily toward genetics than any of the other supposed factors, although, there are types of dementia such as Korsakoff’s, which are directly attributable to excess alcohol.

It’s best to eat a healthy diet and live an overall healthy lifestyle to protect against heart disease, cancer and stroke. Your best diet is a healthy heart diet. After all, “What’s good for your heart is good for your head.”

When you start investigating all things dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s easy to see why there is so much confusion. There is so much conflicting information and so many different types of dementia to consider. No wonder it is often so hard to diagnose.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Is there Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia in your family? Have you had any experience with the different types of dementia? Does the thought of Alzheimer’s cause you anxiety? Does the thought make you feel depressed? Please share any thoughts or experiences you have had. You never know when your knowledge may help somebody else.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’ve been reading extensively about this since this is in my family. However, having the heredity factory doesn’t guarantee this disease. We can change this outcome by remaining active physically, eating a healthy diet, not allowing our brain to atrophy by using it and learning throughout life, and maintaining social connections. Positive attitudes and outlooks can also play into this.

Peggy Yeager

Yes. My mom had dementia & her brother had alzheimers. My dad’s family all had sharp minds until they died in their 90’s. I am striving to eat healthy, keep my weight down & walk daily and am hoping to be like my dad’s family

Stella Fosse

Dr. Becca Levy of the Yale School of Public Health has done extensive research on the effects of our attitudes about aging on health and longevity. The hype about Alzheimers definitely contributes to our fear of aging and thus increases the risk of premature death and lower quality of life. Is it a deliberate attempt to increase sales of risky and only marginally effective medications? My blog about participating in an anxiety-producing clinical trial may be of interest.


Dementia is indeed frightening. I work in family practice and I know that it is a challenging health problem to manage, not only for families, but for the individual as well. On a personal level, my mother had Lewy Body dementia. It was a long lasting illness and she had a lot of functional limitations and injury risk in the last 5 years of her life. I also know that her sense of personal efficacy, her terrible nutritional habits and no interest (and later, no capacity or tolerance for) in any kind of meaningful exercise made things worse. Accept what you must, but “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Jeanmari Speer

My mother passed away in 2021 from Alzheimer’s after having it for almost a decade.
The gradual decline in her cognitive functioning and eventually physical deterioration was very difficult to deal with. I loved my mother very much as did many including my sisters.
I do worry about the possibility of developing this disease however statistically speaking my risk of this happening is low but higher than the general population.
It is something that is in the back of my mind .

The Author

Penelope Jane Whiteley is the self-appointed Queen of Aging Disgracefully. A writer, international speaker, clothes designer, stylist and traveller, she helps other women to live their lives on their own terms. Her courses include “Lose 10 pounds in 10 minutes,” “The Reboot,” “Just Write the Damn Book.” Find her on, Twitter, and Facebook.

You Might Also Like