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Posted at: Sep 15, 2018, 12:31 AM; last updated: Sep 15, 2018, 12:33 AM (IST)WELLNESS

Serve your memory correctly

Serve your memory correctly

Dr Madhukar Bhardwaj

More than 4 million people in India suffer from some form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common disorder among all dementia patients, affecting around 1.6 million. This number is growing at an alarming rate and will triple by 2050. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that impacts your ability to think and remember. Early onset of Alzheimer’s or younger-age Alzheimer’s is when someone below 65 is affected with it. It rarely develops in people in thirties or forties but at least 5 per cent people are affected by early onset of Alzheimer’s. 

Some symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s disease are:

  • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking.
  • Frequently misplacing things and not being able to find out.
  • Getting lost in routes even if in a familiar place.
  • Frequent mood swings.
  • Sudden changes in vision.
  • Withdrawal from work and other social situations.
  • Memory loss, inability to recall things as well as recognise familiar persons or things.
  • Decline in ability reason or judge.
As such there is no single test which can confirm early onset of Alzheimer’s. You must consult an experienced neuro specialist if you have a family history of the disease. The doctor will take a complete medical history and conduct neurological exam, and review your symptoms. The diagnostic process may also include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans of the brain. There are some blood tests which can help in detecting the problem.

Treatment

There are 2 types of treatment available:

  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors like donepezil and rivastigmine.
  • Glutamate receptor modulators like memantine.
There are other cognitive enhancing drugs available like vitamin E, Gingko biloba, and Latrepirdine.

Addressing the neuro-psychiatric symptoms like depression and anxiety is also equally important.  

Some therapies which address the basic disease mechanism, including monoclonal antibodies, are still under research. 

There are many myths prevailing in society regarding Alzheimer’s disease.

Myth: Once diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, life is over.

Reality: Living a normal life is possible even after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A healthy diet, regular exercise, healthy social connections and doing stimulating things which challenge your brain help slow the progression of the disease. Sometime medication may not work in every case. Early diagnosis is important as treatment is more effective in the early stages. 

Myth: Alzheimer’s is hereditary.

Reality: Although genetic factors count but these affect only 5 per cent of the cases of early onset. 

Myth: It affects only the elderly. 

Reality: This progressive and degenerative disease of the brain usually affects people over 65. However, people in their forties and fifties are also prone to getting this disease.

Myth: It is misunderstood as memory loss.

Reality: Some memory loss is natural as you age. However, if memory loss affects your day-to-day ability to function, communication or is accompanied by a decrease in judging or reasoning ability, see your doctor immediately.

Myth: Use of aluminum vessels can cause Alzheimer’s. 

Reality: There is no scientific research to prove  aluminum use can cause Alzheimer’s

Myth: Alzheimer’s can be cured. 

Reality: There is no treatment till now. However, the risks of having Alzheimer’s can be reduced by eating a healthy and controlled diet, staying socially active, reducing stress and by keeping yourself physically active and mentally agile. 

Myth: Some supplements can prevent it.

Reality: Some studies on vitamins E, B, and C, gingko biloba, folate and selenium say these can help in preventing dementia. However, more research is needed.

Myth: Alzheimer’s patient can become violent and aggressive.

Reality: It affects every person differently. It’s normal for some patients to lose control as it’s frustrating, frightening and confusing for them to have memory loss. They need time to adapt to the situation and their surroundings.

Myth: People with Alzheimer’s don’t remain the same as before. 

Reality: It affects a person’s ability to communicate and restricts his/her understanding of the surroundings. The most important thing is that these patients should be treated with dignity and respect.

—The writer is a neurologist, 

Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty

Hospital, New Delhi 


Unavoidable markers

Age: After 65, chances increase with advancing age. 

Family history: Having a family member with Alzheimer’s increases 

the risk.

Genetics: Those with specific genes like APOE or apolipoprotein E gene have three to eight times more risk of being affected.

Gender: Women are more prone to be afflicted.


Avoidable

risk factors

Lack of physical activity: Exercise for at least 30-45 minutes for minimum five days a week.

Obesity: Maintain a healthy weight.

Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke

Keep these numbers in check: Blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes.

A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables: Eat a low-fat, low-salt, low-sugar diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables.

Head injury: Keep the head protected.

Sleep disorders like breathing problems or sleep apnea.

Stress: Opt for meditation or breathing exercises.

Don’t keep the brain inactive. Solve puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku, etc.


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