Alzheimer's disease is a frightening diagnosis—one that we all hope never to face. Unfortunately, there are many myths about what can cause Alzheimer's or increase your risk for the disease.

Here, we set the record straight…

Myth: Use of aluminum is linked to the disease.

Truth: No study has confirmed any link between Alzheimer's and aluminum

Myth: The low-calorie sweetener aspartame causes memory loss.

Truth: There is no scientific evidence of this.

Myth: Flu vaccinations raise Alzheimer's risk.

Truth: Several studies show the opposite—that flu shots reduce risk for Alzheimer's. Past exposure to specific types of vaccines may be related to a lower risk for Alzheimer's because aging and Alzheimer's may involve changes in immune responses.

Myth: Amalgam tooth fillings raise Alzheimer's risk.

Truth: There is no evidence that these fillings—which contain 50% mercury—are linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Better Antidepressant Choice For Older Adults

Researchers analyzed the use of antidepressants in 60,746 depression patients (age 65 and older).

Result: Those who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIS), such as citalopram (Celexa), were at increased risk for several adverse events (including death, stroke, falls and fractures) compared with those who took older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as amitriptyline (Elavil).

If you're 65 or older and your doctor prescribes an SSRI: Be sure to ask about the risks and benefits-and discuss perhaps taking a lower dose.

Sharks, Alzheimer's and ALS

Scientists took tissue samples from the fins of seven species of sharks to measure their levels of the neurotoxin BMAA, which is linked to human neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Result: The average single shark fin contained a similar level of BMAA as that found in the brains of humans with Alzheimer's or ALS.

Implication: Eating shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy, or taking shark cartilage supplements, used by some people as an unproven cancer treatment or for osteoarthritis, may pose a risk for degenerative brain diseases.

What to Do When You No Longer Drive

Avoid social isolation after you are no longer able to drive by taking advantage of public, private and volunteer programs to help you get where you want to go. Some volunteers offer to drive seniors around and there are transportation programs such as ITNAmerica (, to which people can donate vehicles and obtain credits for rides in the future.

Cold Sores May Be Linked To Alzheimer's Disease

Research has shown that a herpes simplex infection—the virus that causes cold sores-increases the amount of amyloid precursor protein, the parent protein of the plaque associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Self-defense: Treat cold sores quickly with an antiviral agent to minimize the amount of time that the virus remains active.

Diagnosing Alzheimer's

New diagnosis guidelines for Alzheimer's may double the number of people defined as having the disease. The guidelines create two new stages—the preclinical stage, when there are no symptoms but brain changes are occurring...and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), with mild symptoms.

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