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What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a neuro-degenerative condition characterized by memory loss, mood disorders and behavioral issues which is believed to affect more than 1.3 million of the elderly population in India.

When lapsing of memory progresses to the extent that it interferes with the proper execution of day to day activities and is accompanied by complications like mood swings, diminishing vocabulary and apathy, the condition is termed as Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible neuro-degenerative disorder which affects people above the age of 65 years. The cause of Alzheimer’s is not fully understood, however, prior head injuries, depression, diabetes and hypertension are believed to precipitate this disease.

How common is Alzheimer’s Disease?

More than 1 million people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every year in India.

Also Read: Myths and Facts about Alzheimer’s Disease

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s affect the brain cells, resulting in memory loss in various way. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

  1. Frequent forgetting of names, dates and events
  2. Difficulty in learning a new task and forgetting recently learned skills
  3. Struggling to find the right words to explain simplest of things and having difficulties in expressing themselves
  4. Having difficulty in conversation and keeping track of discussion
  5. Repeating same words over and over again during a conversation
  6. Inability to identify familiar places or people and forgetting routes
  7. Mood swings and difficulty in handling emotions
  8. Difficulty in remembering recent life episodes, while remembering events from the distant past
  9. Having trouble in socializing
  10. Difficulty in routine tasks like bathing, eating or reading clock in later stages

What are the causes of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The causes of Alzheimer’s are not clearly known yet, but it is usually the combination of lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors. Some medical history related to cognitive functioning may also result in development of Alzheimer’s

Also Read: How to tell it is Alzheimer’s disease and not just aging 

Who is at a higher risk?

  • People aged above 65 years
  • Those with family history
  • Obese people
  • Those with a history of trauma
  • Other factors like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol
  • People consuming poor diet
  • People who do not do any physical or brain exercise
  • Someone with Down Syndrome
  • People who are not mentally and socially active

What are the complications?

Also Read: Did you know of these medical conditions that look like Alzheimer’s?

How is Alzheimer’s Disease treated?

Currently, the treatment of Alzheimer’s is aimed at slowing down the progression of the symptoms and the maintenance of the mental functions as well as providing caregiver support. There is no complete cure for Alzheimer’s however certain lifestyle modifications like healthy diet, brain exercises, etc. have shown to help the patients live longer and better.

What lifestyle changes are required?

Alzheimer’s is a neuro-degenerative disorder. It is important for one to engage in some brain-stimulating exercises in order to prevent Alzheimer’s or to control the impact of the disease. The more active the brain is, the less likely it is to get deteriorated over the time. One can include the below-mentioned regime in their lifestyle to help themselves or a loved one:

  1. Engage in hobbies like singing, playing music, reading
  2. Do some brain exercises
  3. Stir memories by seeing old photographs
  4. Stay socially active
  5. Have healthy diet consisting of brain enriching nutrients

How to take care of someone with Alzheimer’s Disease?

The management of Alzheimer’s is challenging and gratifying, despite the absence of a cure or a robust pharmacological treatment. However, caregivers can follow the below given tips to manage their Alzheimer’s patient well:

  1. Caretakers need to be very patient when dealing with the patients with Alzheimer’s and identify and rectify the causes for their mood swings.
  2. Labeling daily use articles and shelves to reduce dependency.
  3. Formulating a simple daily routine, which consists of non-strenuous activities the patient enjoys.
  4. Encouraging the patients to take part in non-tiring physical exercises like walking and gardening.
  5. Playing brain games like chess, solving puzzles and reading is proven to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s in the elderly.
  6. Keeping a pet or installing a fish pond in the patient’s room contributes to a better mood.
  7. Music therapy has been proven to improve psychological behaviors in patients with Alzheimer’s.
  8. Prevention and control of systemic diseases like diabetes, hypertension in patients with Alzheimer’s help in amelioration of associated behavioral and neurological problems.

Also Read: Here’s a checklist for Alzheimer’s caregivers

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