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21st September 2018 is World Alzheimer s Day. With every passing year, the awareness about this condition is increasing which is helping people affected by this condition and their caregivers to reach for help in the initial stages when the condition sets in. This helps to be prepared for the consequences and the outcome of the condition as it progresses and plans life a tad better for both the sufferer and the caregiver. Alzheimer s disease is a condition where there is a steady loss of memory and other mental functions. It is a progressively degenerative condition which cannot be reversed. Here are some facts about Alzheimer s that you need to know:
Dementia is defined as deterioration of mental faculties affecting memory, behaviour and thinking of a person serious enough to impact his/her daily life alongside the caregivers or members of the family. In India, four million people are afflicted with some form of dementia and the commonest form is Alzheimer s, which affects memory the most, says Dr V P Singh, Chairman, Institute of Neurosciences, Medanta.
No specific test defines Alzheimer s - it is a diagnosis based on clinical assessment and exclusion of various other causes. While no cure exists for Alzheimer s, it is important to catch the ailment in the early stages and initiate certain measures, says Dr Singh. Treatment can help to manage some of the symptoms of Alzheimer s and delay progression of the disease but it cannot reverse the damage that has happened in the brain.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Sciences, women are twice as likely to suffer from this condition as men. Brain shrinkage and the progression of the condition is rapid in women than men, researchers believe there are some physiological reasons that could contribute to this gender bias.
Researchers have predicted certain risk factors that could lead to the development of Alzheimer s disease. Heart conditions are thought to be a bigger risk factor than others hypertension, high cholesterol and other cardiac conditions are major risk factors. The other lifestyle factors that could contribute towards the risk are diabetes, poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
It is predicted that one can live for around 15 to 20 years even after being diagnosed with Alzheimer s, though the burden increases on the caregiver with every passing year. However, life expectancy varies. Elderly people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer s live three to four years after the diagnosis. In the younger generation, it can extend up to a decade or more depending on the other physiological factors and fitness.
Alzheimer s disease carries steep personal, family and societal costs. In addition to the loss of individuality of the person, there is a huge financial burden of home care and hospital care. Tackling this impending yet inevitable epidemic of dementia will need herculean efforts by the healthcare and social care professionals, public health policymakers and the government, says Dr Singh.
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