Don’t waste away

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Don’t waste away

Tuesday, 24 September 2019 | Pioneer Health

Don’t waste away

India is home to more than 4 million Alzheimer’s patients and is expected to reach 7.5 million by 2030. Doctors tell you how to reduce this progressive brain disorder

Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, is still one of the lesser known problems in India. According to estimates, the number of patients with dementia in India is about 4 million and around the world, there will be approximately 131.5 million people with the condition by 2050. There is a need to raise awareness on the fact that Alzheimer’s is an irreversible condition and people who suffer may be unable to carry out even the most basic daily activities over time. It is, therefore, important to undertake some preventive measures right from a young age to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s later in life.

Adequate physical activity

Any form of physical activity is not only beneficial for a healthy heart but also for better brain function.

This is because physical activity boosts circulation and therefore maintains oxygen supply to the brain. This increases alertness and keeps the brain cells healthy for a longer time.

Control your blood pressure

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a major risk factor for not only heart problems but also certain neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s. It is therefore important to reduce the consumption of salt and maintain a balance.

Healthy eating and a balanced diet

Certain types of foods can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease while a balanced diet is good for the brain. Make sure your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids. These will keep your weight in check and reduce associated risk factors that lead to Alzheimer’s over time.

Watch out for depression

Research indicates that people with untreated depression have a huge risk of acquiring Alzheimer's disease. This becomes more important in the elderly as the symptoms may be difficult to identify.

The writer is Dr Prashant Kumar Dash, Director-Medical Services at

Show them you care

Providing care to people with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Though only basic assistance is required in the early stages, with time, the care needs to be intensified. One of the most cited difficulties that caregivers face is the behavioural changes. Caregiving for people with this condition needs patience, time, flexibility, and understanding.

Make a schedule: It is important to establish a routine. Schedule tasks like bathing or medical appointments when the person is alert and fresh. For days that are difficult, allow for some flexibility. It is always good to organise activities anticipating possible delays. Allow time for breaks during tasks.

Involve them: Try to help them to certain tasks with least amount of assistance. This will help them improve coordination and cognition. For instance, they could carry out basic activities such as changing clothes or eating their meals themselves but under supervision.

Make communication simple: People with Alzheimer’s need time to comprehend and understand. Break down your instructions in simple and clear language. They understand clear and one-step communication.

Remove distractions: It is important to help people with Alzheimer’s to focus on the task at hand. Imagine a small child who is easily distracted. Turn off the television or remove other distractions as it will help them focus and remember better.

Create a safe environment: People with Alzheimer’s lack a clear sense of judgment or problem-solving skills. This can even increase the risk of falls and injury. Ensure that safety measures are put in place around them. Alzheimer’s progresses differently in every individual and therefore adapting is key. Tailoring caregiving according to their needs and being patient can help caregivers deal better with the challenges.

The writer is Dr Vishal Sehgal, Medical Director, Portea Medical

Early signs

  • Disrupted sleep is perhaps the only sign of the disease that surfaces much ahead of the development of other cognitive signs like memory loss. Research has shown Alzheimer’s plaques can disrupt sleep, so can interrupted sleep promote the development of the former. Those with sleep efficiency lower than 75 per cent are five times more prone to have preclinical Alzheimer’s than the ones who sleep well.  
  • Forgetting the same piece of information in spite of repeatedly checking on it could be a warning sign of the disease.
  • Inability to perform an otherwise familiar task is deemed to be another sign. For instance, it is natural for someone to seek help while cooking a new dish but if you have completely forgotten making your favourite recipe, then it isn’t common.
  • Sudden vision problems like difficulty to identify colours, shapes and distance between objects could indicate neural dysfunction.

The writer is Dr Vijay Janagama

Age not a factor

Alzheimer’s is no more an old man’s disease. Case reports indicate a decreasing onset of age. In spite of being home to more than 4 million patients, Alzheimer’s in India is still neither formally diagnosed nor treated. Most of us consider loss of memory as a natural sign of ageing and don’t associate it with a probable degenerative disorder. But what if the first signs of dementia start showing at a much younger age? Missing these signs can prove fatal. A proper awareness of the warning signs of the disease, necessary tests to confirm diagnosis and appropriate interventions to mitigate the condition if confirmed of the disease can help in tackling Alzheimer’s efficiently. 

Cause: While concrete evidences are scarce to explain the reason behind early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, people with a parent or grandparent who also developed the disease early were found to have increased risks. Therefore, those with a family history of the disease are recommended to undergo a genetic counseling for an early diagnosis.

Diagnosis: Visible changes show in the body almost a decade after the actual damage to the brain has happened. While these symptoms may vary from person to person, recurrence of some commonly found signs can signal the early incidence of the disease. Once signs of mental decline are noticed in an individual, academic protocols will suggest him/her to undergo a series of cognitive tests, followed by testing the blood, urine and spinal fluid. A CT and MRI scan will confirm the incidence of Alzheimer’s and the extent of the damage caused to the brain.

Treatment: It is classified as one among the many incurable diseases. However, medical circles have seen positive results on patients who were introduced to the many available treatment options at an early stage.

The writer is Dr Vijay Janagama,, Director, New Initiatives, SuVitas Holistic Healthcare

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