Get to know about Alzheimer’s and Dementia on World Alzheimer’s Day

World Alzheimer’s Day is observed on 21st September every year to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. We interviewed Dr Shilpa Sadanand, expert in ageing and dementia care to understand more about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

 

Dr. Shilpa Sadanand currently works as an Assistant Professor at Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad.

 

Can you tell us more about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? Is dementia and Alzheimer’s disease same?

Dementia is a term used for disease conditions in which person has decline in memory, language, problem-solving, thinking and behavior which affects his/her ability to perform everyday activities. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells and is not a normal part of ageing. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 50-80% of all cases of dementia. In Alzheimer’s, there is loss of brain cells and nerves disrupting the transmitters which carry messages in the brain specifically those responsible for storing our memories.

 

Many people complain of memory problems as they age, could it be Dementia?

All of us forget many things and it is normal as long as it is occasional and we can remember it back; sometimes it is good for us to forget certain bad things to move ahead in life. What happens in dementia is that there is gradual decline in memory and thinking which starts affecting the person’s capability to carry out daily activities and in taking care of himself/herself. The person could initially start forgetting the date or the day of the week, names of close relatives, etc., and as disease progresses, the person might forget the way back home or taking bath or using the toilet. Usually the spouse or children can observe a significant change and decline in person’s capabilities from his/her usual self.

Normal Forgetfulness

 

  • Occasionally forgetting where you kept your things such as keys or reading glasses
  • Forgetting names of acquaintances
  • Occasionally forgetting an appointment or walking into a room and forgetting the reason
  • Tip of the tongue and not being able to remember

Warning Signs of Dementia

 

  • Memory decline that disturbs daily Life
  • Difficulty in planning or solving problems
  • Problems in completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion about time or place
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor Judgement
  • Withdrawal from work & social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

What are the risk factors for Dementia?

Age itself is the main risk factor for dementia, our risk for dementia increases as we grow older. Dementia mainly affects older people, about 2% of cases start before the age of 65 years. After this, the prevalence doubles every five years. Some of the other risk factors include diabetes, hypertension, smoking, alcohol and obesity. Good thing about these risk factors are that it can be managed through lifestyle modification at early age and the risk for dementia at old age can be reduced to some extent.

 

What are the treatment options available for persons with dementia?

At the moment, dementia is not curable but it is treatable. There are drugs available for persons with dementia which can temporarily slow down the progression of symptoms of dementia and manage behavioural problems. Non-medical therapies are available which aims to delay the loss of mental capabilities, so that the person can stay independent in everyday life as long as possible and have good quality of life. Memory and orientation exercise, reminiscence therapy, art therapy, music therapy are more commonly used.

 

Can we prevent dementia?

“What’s good for your heart is also good for your brain”, Keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and your weight in a healthy range are all good for your heart, these are good for brain health too, and may help to reduce your risk of dementia.

 

Image Courtesy – Alzheimers Disease International

Some tips for preventing Dementia

 

-Challenge your Brain

 

-Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body weight at healthy levels

 

-Don’t smoke

 

-Be physically active

 

-Follow a healthy diet

 

-Participate in social activities

 

-Manage stress and depression  

What is your message for World Alzheimer’s Day?

This year theme for World Alzheimer’s day is “Let’s talk about Dementia: End the Stigma”. We all should understand the importance of recognising dementia as a disease. It is not a normal part of ageing. Let’s understand that dementia is a debilitating disease for the person and the family. But it is possible to live positively with dementia against the public perception, by seeking care and support from family and friends and healthcare providers. Let’s understand that caring for someone with dementia is challenging, it is important for caregivers to take care of their own physical and mental health needs. So if you know any person, could be your relative or friend or colleague who is living with dementia or who is taking care of person with dementia, spend some time with them, talk to them, laugh, hold their hands and support them in whatever way you can.  A small gesture can make a big difference.