World Alzheimer's Day 2019: 6 Myths About Alzheimer's Disease You Must Stop Believing
Alzheimer's Day 2019: Given the myths surrounding this condition, there is a need to build knowledge and public awareness as the first step towards understanding it. This will enable people with Alzheimer's disease lead a better quality of life.
2019 Alzheimer's Day: Significant memory loss is a sign of Alzheimer's Disease
- You can continue to live a healthy life even after Alzheimer's diagnosis
- Progression of Alzheimers is different in every individual
- Familial dementia is not very common
World Alzheimer's Day 2019 is observed on September 21. This day is meant to raise about Alzheimer's, its causes and top tips for prevention. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia that causes progressive degeneration of brain cells over time. There are about 4 million people suffering from Alzheimer's in India and this number is expected to almost double by the year 2030. Patients with this condition experience a sharp decline in memory, and cognitive and social abilities, often leading to disruption in daily life. The typical symptoms include significant memory loss and marked failure to recollect recent conversations, relatively new faces or events. As the disease advances, Alzheimer's disease patients may require constant assistance as they lose their ability to perform day-to-day tasks. They may also have trouble expressing themselves and frequently misplace personal belongings.
Given the myths surrounding this condition, there is a need to build knowledge and public awareness as the first step towards understanding it. This will enable people with Alzheimer's disease lead a better quality of life and end-of-life care can be made more comfortable for its sufferers. Here are a few myths dispelled.
World Alzheimer's Day: Myths about Alzheimer's you must stop believing
Myth 1 Being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease is end of life
Fact Even if you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, you can continue to live a healthy life for many years ahead. While medications may, in some cases, help manage the symptoms to an extent, maintaining a heart-healthy diet, staying physically active, socialising regularly, and taking up activities that challenge the brain can benefit patients by slowing the progression of the disease.
Myth 2: It affects only people above the age of 70
Fact: In the recent years, doctors have come across Alzheimer's patients as young as those in their 30s. It is now known to affect people of any age and gender, the most common risk factors being stress and sedentary lifestyle. There are more than 5 million people suffering from Alzheimer's disease in the US alone out of which 200,000 are below the age of 65.
Myth 3: Memory loss is a normal aspect of ageing
Fact: While occasional loss of memory is common as you age, decline in cognitive abilities or significant memory loss can be a sign of Alzheimer's. Memory loss can also indicate other reversible medical conditions that can be treated easily if diagnosed at an early stage. If your loved one struggles to remember things which are part of daily routine, then you must discuss with a physician about their condition so that regular memory loss can be differentiated from that indicative of dementia.
Myth 4: Flu shots, aspartame and eating food cooked in aluminium vessels can cause Alzheimer's
Fact: While there were some speculations surrounding each of these individual theories, there is no solid scientific evidence to prove that an individual is at a higher risk of Alzheimer's by getting flu shots or consuming aspartame. These myths have been spread on social media and have no underlying supportive facts. Using aluminium cookware may have other ill effects on the body, however, there is no proven link between the metal and Alzheimer's disease.
Myth 5: Alzheimer's is hereditary
Fact: Familial dementia is not very common, even though it is certainly a factor. The gene that is responsible for Alzheimer's can be passed down from parent to child. If either of your parents have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, chances are that you may be at risk. However, that does not mean you will get it for sure. There are many factors that can prevent the onset of the disease in an individual including lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and keeping stress levels low. Even if you are at risk, you can modify your lifestyle to prevent the onset of this disease.
Myth 6: Alzheimer's patients behave like small children and respond well to reciprocal treatment
Fact: Progression of Alzheimer's is different in every individual. While decline in cognitive functions and memory are common, the order or severity of signs may be different in each patient. Alzheimer's patients require constant care, affection, and personal interaction even though they may respond differently each day.
Given the many myths and misconceptions around Alzheimer's, it is important to gather information only from credible sources. If you have doubts about Alzheimer's disease or have someone in the family who has been diagnosed with the condition, it is good to approach a qualified doctor for more information. This can not only help you take better care of the patient but also remove social stigma and fear surrounding this condition.
(Dr. Vishal Sehgal is Medical Director, Portea Medical. He has previously worked with Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon)
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