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One of the most common forms of Dementia, Alzheimer’s is a disease which displays symptoms like a gradual and sometimes complete loss of memory. It hampers cognitive capabilities like thinking, language and behaviour. Alzheimer’s occurs due to degeneration of the brain that happens over time. It accounts for nearly 60-80 percent cases of dementia.

Here are some of the important facts related to Alzheimer’s in India:

An estimated 1.6 million Indians have Alzheimer’s

While more than 4 million of India’s population suffers from different types of dementia, about 1.6 million are affected by Alzheimer’s. The World Alzheimer’s Report 2015 led by King’s College London estimates that these numbers will double every 20 years. Results further showed an approximate increase of a new case of Alzheimer’s every 3 seconds.

According to the ‘Dementia India’ report published by Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra alone are predicted to have more than 5,00,000 patients by 2026.

Many Cases Go Undiagnosed

A large number of cases of Alzheimer’s go undetected because of lack of awareness of the symptoms. Even if these symptoms are observed, people assume it is a part of the normal ageing process.

Alzheimer’s occurs due to damage to the brain cells or brain cell death. Brain cell death often takes place due to the presence of large deposits of the amyloid beta protein. These sticky deposits are also known as plaques when the protein clumps together between neurons in the brain. The deposits interrupt cell connections to each other causing damage to the cells and ultimately resulting in brain cell death.

Since it takes place over a period of time, symptoms of Alzheimer’s are not highly recognisable. Also, memory disturbances, irritability and behavioural changes like difficulty in completing familiar tasks, misplacing things, changes in mood and withdrawal from social activities might be accepted as normal by family members as people age.

The Probability of Having Alzheimer’s Increases with Age

This disease usually occurs over the age of 65 and the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s is twice as much every five years once you pass 65. Display of symptoms, on the other hand, vary a lot. Most often, symptoms appear in people after they are 60 years of age. However, it is important to note that Alzheimer’s early signs are also seen among those in their 40s and 50s. This is known as early onset of Alzheimer’s and has a strong family history with genetic predisposition that displays symptoms like gradual memory loss, misplacing objects, difficulty in completing familiar jobs and even personality changes.

A Higher Ratio of Women Have Alzheimer’s

The Dementia India Report 2010 states a higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s in women, especially above the age of 60. The reason why a greater number of women fall victim to Alzheimer’s is that they have a higher life expectancy of 69.9 as compared to men whose life expectancy is 66.9 as per the WHO data published in 2015. As women age they are not as well looked after as men are, thus they tend to live more years in disability and poor health.

Cost of Healthcare services for Alzheimer’s

The India Ageing Report 2017 states that the elderly population is growing extremely fast at a rate of 3 percent. This, in turn, increases the cases of Alzheimer’s in India. Presently, the annual household cost of taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s depending on the severity is between INR.45,600 to INR.2,02,450 in urban areas and INR 20,300 to INR 66,025 in rural areas. The costs involved in health care and treatment for Alzheimer’s is expected to increase three times by 2030.

Appendix V of the Integrated Programme for Older Persons by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, refers to the running of day care centres for Senior Citizens afflicted with Alzheimer’s/Dementia and states the cost for medical care.

Risk Factors

There can be several factors that can play a big role in increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Some of them can be listed as under:

  • Age
  • Family history and genetics
  • Head injury, repeated trauma or loss of consciousness
  • Heart disease, stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes (It is said to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s by three fold)
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Smoking

While medicines help, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Taking care of your health and staying mentally and socially active can definitely help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Being mentally active by maintaining a hobby, solving puzzles, learning a new language can help in stimulating the brain. This stimulation combined with being active and alert doesn’t directly delay or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s but it delays the display of its symptoms.

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