Knowing the Signs of Normal Aging Versus Alzheimer’s Disease

Updated on December 16, 2020

Alzheimer’s is a disease that has affected many people across the world. Alzheimer’s disease is a mental disease that destroys memory and other important psychological functions. The simplest definition of the disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that over time destroys memory and thinking skills. Though there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there is a medicine that can help to treat it. The disease eventually leads to the inability to perform simple tasks. The disease seems to spread with rapid growth across the United States, while only one in four people living with the disease get diagnosed with it.

Based on a recent study, there are approximately 44 million people in the United States and worldwide living with Alzheimer’s, or a related form of dementia. The Alzheimer’s stages/symptoms include increased memory loss, confusion, behavior changes, inability to learn new things, difficulty with language and problems (associated with reading, writing, and working with numbers), and difficulty organizing thoughts and thinking logically. Sometimes it might be difficult to differentiate the signs of normal aging from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Below are some suggestions on how to discern the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

What is aging?


First, let’s begin with defining what aging actually is. Aging is the process of getting older. At its most basic level, aging means that the single cells within an organism have ceased dividing. Another term for this is cellular senescence. As we go through this process, we experience gradual changes in our brains and bodies. These changes can even affect our physical and mental abilities.

There are genetic factors that affect how you age, in addition to your lifestyles and environments. For example, if you exercise often, then there’s a chance that as you age, you will be a bit healthier. If you knock back a pack of cigarettes a day, there’s a good chance that your physical health will suffer for it as you get older. If you suffer from obesity this can also affect how you age. Making an intervention in your health habits can help you age better. How you treat your mind, body (and some people also argue soul) can have a huge effect on the aging process within a person.

Physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

As you age, you still retain the mental facility to perform basic bodily functions. This isn’t the case when it comes to Alzheimer’s. When Alzheimer’s disease begins to move into the last stages, these changes to the brain begin to affect physical functions. This means that your swallowing, balance, and bowel and bladder control are affected during the course of the disease. In cases such as these, for example, you might have to deal with bladder control problems, figuring out how to treat urinary incontinence or involuntary loss of urine. Some other physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease include stress incontinence, urge incontinence, an overactive bladder, overflow incontinence, and functional incontinence, and fecal incontinence.

Dealing with these types of incontinence are not issues that many people dealing with normal aging will have to focus on. Their daily activities when it comes to bowel and bladder control issues won’t be as serious as many people dealing with the physical effects of Alzheimer’s. There are other conditions that can contribute to incontinence in people who age normally though. This can include going to the doctor for treatment of overactive bladder, bladder control problems urine leakage, a urinary tract infection, or maybe a case of constipation.

In many cases, normal aging issues like dealing with different types of incontinence like stress incontinence, an overactive bladder, overflow incontinence, and functional incontinence will not affect their quality of life. They will be able to maintain healthy bladder muscles and bladder necks. These people won’t suffer the same type of urgency when it comes to dealing with any type of urinary incontinence which someone who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease might.

Memory loss vs dementia.


When you age you do suffer some form of cognitive decline. Memory loss is a form of cognitive decline that happens when a person is not able to remember events for a period of time. Memory loss is sometimes caused by brain injury, illness, or the effects of drugs and alcohol. This form of cognitive decline can also be created by stress, anxiety, and depression. These more psychological related issues can have an effect on how we concentrate and remember things. Cognitive decline loss of memory is often associated with the normal aging process. Dementia is a form of advanced loss of memory. This loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities can severely interfere with a person’s life.

On the other hand, Alzheimer’s is caused by dementia. The signs of loss of memory vs. dementia are substantial. Though memory loss is something which you should be concerned about, and take steps to tackle, the signs of it are not as frightening as someone suffering from dementia.

To begin with, when it comes to memory loss a person is unable to remember details of a conversation that took place a year ago, and they are unable to remember the name of an acquaintance. Further, a person might occasionally forget things and events, and might even have difficulty remember specific words. You might be worried about these lapses with your memory, but those closest to you don’t see it as an issue.

With Alzheimer’s disease-associated dementia, the signs become a bit more concerning, and even frightening even at the early stages in certain circumstances. When you have dementia at an early stage you can’t remember details from recent events or conversations. You find yourself unable to remember who close friends or family members are, often not even remembering their names.

You often forget things more frequently and experience regular pauses and replacements when attempting to find words and phrases. Lastly, your friends and family are concerned about these extreme lapses in memory, but you have no idea of the problems themselves. The differences between normal aging-associated loss of memory and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia reflect how they are in fact not the same.

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