Keep Your Brain Up and Doing to Reduce Alzheimer Risk

Keep your Brain Up and Doing to reduce Alzheimer risk

New Delhi, 19 September: Lazy brain could be a recipe for developing devastating disease Alzheimer. Though the disease is yet incurable but keeping brain engaged and up and doing is the best way to minimize its risk. Delhi chapter of Alzheimer’s & Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) has advised people to eat healthy, socialize and keep brain active to keep the risk of Alzheimer at bay. The adage ‘use it’ or ‘lose it’ truly applies on brain.

ARDSI will observe World Alzheimer’s Day on September 22 at India Habitat Center to spread awareness about this disease, its risk factors and how to be better prepared to deal with it.

Dr Manjari Tripathi, President, Alzheimer’s & Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), Delhi Chapter said, ‘Research shows that many factors affect the risk of developing dementia. For some factors like ageing, one can’t do anything about. But there’s a lot one can do to reduce the risks. Though not curable as yet, involving in activities that keep the brain active is the best way to mitigate risks associated with Alzheimer’s disease,’ He said, ‘the seeds of dementia may be sown 30-40 years before symptoms show’.

He said, ‘Dementia is the progressive loss of the powers of the brain. The most common kinds are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Dementia is also a major public health issue in India, which is the fourth biggest killer after heart disease, strokes and cancer in the country. It is most common among older people. As life expectancy increases, there will be more old people and so more people with dementia. By 2030, there will be about 8 million people with dementia in India, up from 4 million today. Dementia is something people do not tend to think about in their 40s and 50s, unless a person has seen somebody close grappling with it.

These diseases damage and kill brain cells, hampering its normal functioning. This causes problems with memory, communication and thinking. Sometimes performing activities such as handling money and dressing become a task for people affected with Alzheimer’s disease.

For individuals, dementia can be devastating. Bit by bit it slows down the people’s ability to do everyday things, leaving them handicapped to make even decisions about their lives. They become reliant on others. Families have to provide more and more support and care. There is no cure for dementia, and treatment is limited.

Certain modifications in lifestyle, dietary habits accompanied by proper stress management, indulgence in cognitive activities and socializing go a long way in managing and reducing the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Following measures ensure cutting down on the risks:

  • Regular check-ups: Risk factors for heart-related ailments like hypertension, diabetes expose a person to higher risks of Alzheimer’s disease. Taking care of heart, thus, is important to keep brain in a healthy state. It is advisable to undergo regular tests for blood pressure and cholesterol levels from time-to-time.
  • Stop smoking and moderate intake of alcohol: Heavy smoking impacts the cognitive abilities of the brain and progresses Alzheimer’s disease. While consumption of alcohol in moderation lowers the risk of the disease, too much of it leads to alcohol-related dementia.
  • Stay mentally active and take regular physical activity: People who are active are at less risk of the disease than those who are not. Involving in physical exercises makes people perform exceptionally well at cognitive tasks, thereby enhancing the decision-making, execution, attention, planning and processing speed. Brisk walking, running, swimming and yoga help make brain active. Playing games like chess, cards, board games, solving crosswords and other puzzles, reading and learning a musical instrument or a language are other ways to keep the brain in an active state.
  • Eat healthy: Be careful about what you eat. A brain-healthy diet is one that reduces the risk of heart disorders and keeps a check on diabetes. As per some studies, fish oils and intake of folate (folic acid) reduces the dementia risk. It is suggested to include more fruit, vegetables, cereals, orange juice, and fish in the diet. Cut down on salt and sugar and intake of saturated fats.
  • Socialize and manage stress: Mingling with friends and family members and having a large social network boost the emotional quotient. Friends and family members are a support system and help deal with unwanted situations. Stress clogs the mind and makes it virtually inactive. While the support system provides the healing and keeps one upbeat, at individual level one should train the mind to stay calm and positive.

Ageing comes with its own sort of problems. While avoiding it completely is not possible, one can certainly look for ways to keep the brain active and healthy.

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE – INDIAN SCENARIO

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive disorder in which brain cells (neurons) deteriorate, resulting in the loss of cognitive functions – primarily memory, judgment and reasoning, movement coordination, and pattern recognition. Symptoms of the disease include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, personality changes, disorientation, and loss of language skills. In advanced stages of the disease, all memory and mental functioning may be lost. Of all the diseases that we face today, Alzheimer’s is perhaps the most painful and devastating.

Presently there is no cure for AD. Unless a cure or some means of prevention is found, more than 10 crores of our elderly population will fall prey to this dreadful disease by the middle of this century. Caring for this large population of patients will impose a heavy financial burden on the health care system. Even though we have gained a great deal of knowledge about AD in the last decade or so, our understanding of this disease is still in its nascent stage. Scientists still do not know for certain what causes it.

According to many scientific estimates published worldwide, a new case of dementia arises every four seconds in the world with the number of people with dementia set to double every 20 years. .  By 2040, over 82 million elderly people are expected to have AD if the current numbers hold and no preventive treatments become available.  WHO on the World Health Day declared ‘Dementia as a Public Health Priority’ and has urged governments, policymakers and other stakeholders worldwide to address the impact of dementia as an increasing threat to global health.

The number of persons with dementia double every 5 years of age and so India will have one of the largest numbers of elders with this problem. India has about 3.7 million (2.1 million women and 1.5 million men) persons with dementia and this figure will double by 2030 to about 7 million persons. The present cost of caring has been conservatively estimated to Rs. 14,700 Crores. These figures shall double by 2030, while the cost would increase three times. The study done by Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), a non-profit organization established in 1992, which has published a country status report on Dementia (The Dementia India Report in 2010). This study has been validated by ADI and has been widely quoted by WHO in their world report on Dementia.

The size of our country and the numbers of affected people and its future expansion requires meticulous planning to initiate services and more so to plan prevention and promote research.  A comprehensive country strategy in India by the Government, with a timeline, allocation of resources and creating awareness at all concerned stakeholders level shall be the most ideal way to accost the impending danger of Dementia in India.

Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India-ARDSI, Delhi Chapter since 1994 has been running variety of utility services for people with all forms of Dementias and has affiliation with ARDSI – National Office. The Delhi Chapter runs various services ranging from Domiciliary care, Day care centres, Respite care centres (24X 7), caregivers training, run helplines, provide free medicine to poor patients, conduct research and raise awareness on this diseaseand is actively engaged in public policy and advocacy with the central and state Governments and liaise with its variety of stakeholders in ensuring health care support to People living with Dementia and their carers.

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