Beware of Alzheimer's disease this 'World Alzheimer's Day'

Updated: Sep 21, 2019, 09:54 IST | mid-day online correspondent |

Common parlance among the young these days is that they suffer from poor memory

This picture has been used for representational purpose only
This picture has been used for representational purpose only

Alzheimer's disease is a rather common condition characterized by memory loss as its core feature. Generally occurring after the age of 65 years it is now seen to occur even earlier. Alzheimer's disease accounts for approximately 50 percent i.e. half of all causes of dementia. Alzheimer's disease was a term first coined in 1910 to describe a constellation of features which included cognitive and behavioral changes in the elderly. These features now include memory loss, disorientation, confusion and behavioral changes like anxiety, depression, agitation or hallucination which have a rather gradual onset and progression in an elderly person. Unfortunately, there is no feature that is unique to Alzheimer's type of dementia as opposed to other causes of dementia. Current studies believe that the brain abnormality leading to Alzheimer's disease starts at a much earlier age and may be strongly related to poor lifestyle habits namely bad sleeping habits, like late nights or lesser sleep hours, excessive stress, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, physical inactivity, excessive tobacco or alcohol intake. Genetic factors certainly would be incriminated if there are multiple members from the same family developing memory loss or for the younger-onset cases.

Common parlance among the young these days is that they suffer from poor memory. Encouraging for them would be to note that this generally is the result of lack of concentration arising out of poor sleeping habits, excessive stress, and physical inactivity. However, if these poor lifestyle factors are not addressed in time they may sow the seeds for future dementia. Therapy for Alzheimer's, unfortunately, is not curative. As is known dementia slowly progresses to a point wherein the later stages the patient loses mobility and sense of bladder - bowel control. The therapy mainly remains symptomatic with medications that help replace some chemicals in the brain to partially boost up the memory. Massive funds have been spent and even presently being invested all over the world on experimental studies for drugs still in the pipe-line to cure this relentless illness.

The best way, hence, remains prevention of this fiercely progressive condition which affects not only the patient but the entire family who has to cope with this illness which may run into years resulting in what is often known as caregiver burnout for family members. An adequate sleep schedule, a good fitness regime, a healthy diet, regular meditation and avoidance of stress in today's fast life would hence be of utmost importance to prevent this unforgiving illness.

Article by Dr. Azad M Irani, Consultant Department of Neurology at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre

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