Living with Alzheimer’

If identified in time, research has shown that certain treatment can relieve some symptoms and improve the quality of life, says Dr Yogesh Kataria

Alzheimer’, Yogesh Kataria, Neurological disorder, India Ageing Report, National Health Service, DocsApp, Neurologist, Pharmacological treatments, Herbal remedies, Dietary supplements, Nerve cells

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative neurological disorder and one of the most common type of dementia which impacts one’s memory, thinking, and behaviour. With over 4 million Indians reported to be suffering from Alzheimer’s, it is expected to surge multi-fold if formally diagnosed as most people ignore it as a mere memory loss which is an inevitable part of ageing. A report titled ‘India Ageing Report’ released in 2017 had indicated that the 60-plus population in the country is expected to rise to nearly 32 crores by 2050. To simply put it, it will increase to 19% from around 8% in 2015, which quantifies the gravity of scenario ahead.

It has been learned that most often, the first indicator is the effect on memory where people fail to recall even simple information in their day to day life. The symptoms can be broadly classified as reduced ability to take in and remember new information, poor decision making, inability to recognize faces or common objects, impaired speaking, changes in reading and writing, and different personality traits. In the early stages, the symptoms may be minimal, but generally, people with Alzheimer’s live for approximately 8-10 years from the time the indicators start to appear.

While a lot of new knowledge has emerged, leading to new treatments or better understanding of the illness, we are far from having a clear picture about the mechanism of how Alzheimer’s develops and why. However, some causes that may lead to Alzheimer’s include depression, side effects of certain medication, excess alcohol, thyroid, poor diet, vitamin deficiencies, and infections. Since the disorder pertains to largely the older population who typically stay at home, its impact invariably extends to their close family members and care-givers. Due to the lack of awareness in India especially regarding Alzheimer’s, families are in denial or they do not know how to properly care for their loved ones which leads to increased irritation levels, irrational arguments, toxic family environment and so on.

One of the most important factors to tackle this disease is a balanced meal which fuels the body and provides the necessary nutrition required to keep one healthy and strong. Consume more of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods. It is also important to avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and refined sugar. 

It is known that presently Alzheimer’s has no cure, however, if identified in time, research has shown that certain treatments can relieve some symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals living with the disease and their caregivers. As Alzheimer’s progresses, the connection among brain cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. Some medication may not stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, but they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's nerve cells.

Beyond pharmacological treatments, increasing number of herbal remedies and dietary supplements are promoted as memory enhancers or treatments to delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Though the efficacy of these products is yet to be certified and approved, they are largely based on testimonials and tradition rather than scientific research.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service states that there are certain steps that could be taken which may help to delay the onset of dementia, which includes staying mentally healthy by reading, writing for pleasure, playing musical instruments, taking part in adult education courses, playing games, swimming, group sports, such as bowling, walking among other recreational activities. Additionally, people can even seek counselling which can help to manage behaviour symptoms and promote physical and emotional comfort by addressing those needs that an affected person may have difficulty in expressing.

To sum it all, we cn hope that the medical fraternity will make a breakthrough in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Until then, we need to equip ourselves with enough information to be able to take care of our loved ones and foster a comforting environment in difficult times. 
Dr Yogesh Kataria is a neurologist with DocsApp

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