World Alzheimer's Day 2021: Know All The Risk Factors Of This Neurological Disorder
World Alzheimer's Day is observed in 21 September every year to raise awareness about Alzheimer's disease and dementia. This year the day will focus on creating awareness about signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder
- World Alzheimer's Day is observed on 21 September
- Alzheimer's Day creates awareness about Alzheimer's and dementia
- People over 65 years of age are at a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease
World Alzheimer's Day tries to create awareness about Alzheimer's diseases and dementia. Several events are organised all over the world to mark this day. Millions of people all over the world suffer from Alzheimer's disease which makes it a global crisis. In India, more than 5.3 million have some form of dementia (a condition in which memory, communication, thinking and social abilities tend to deteriorate), most of which result from Alzheimer's disease. According to a report published by the ARDSI (Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India), the number of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease is expected to reach 7.6 million in India. The disease mainly affects the elderly where a combination of environmental and genetic factors usually lead to its inception. While there is no cure available for this disease but medication and cognitive retraining in the early phases can help slow its progression.
Common risk factors for Alzheimer's disease
Old age is one of the biggest risk factors for developing this disease. A majority of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease happen to be of 65 years of age or above.
Scientists have identified different variants of genes that increases the possibility of developing Alzheimer's disease. The most common risk gene that leads to Alzheimer's disease is the APOE-e4 gene. It is estimated that this gene plays a vital role in as many as one-quarter of Alzheimer's cases.
3. Family history
The chances of developing the disease increases when someone does have siblings or parents affected with Alzheimer's. While it is still not completely understood as to what causes Alzheimer's to run in families, but genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors may all play a part.
4. Cardiovascular disease
The health of the brain is closely associated to the health of the blood vessels and heart. The heart pumps blood which provides nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Thus, factors that lead to cardiovascular disease also may be linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
5. Traumatic injury to the brain
The risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increases to a certain extent after a severe or moderate traumatic brain injury, like an injury of the skull or blow to the head that causes loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes.
Treatment and support for Alzheimer's
Presently, there are no treatments available to stop the brain damage caused by Alzheimer's disease. However, different medications are available that can temporarily help improve the symptoms of dementia. These medications primarily work by increasing neurotransmitters in the brain. Research is underway to find better ways to treat Alzheimer's and other progressive dementias. Currently, lots of pharmacologic treatments and therapies are also being worked upon to focus on stopping the brain cell death associated with Alzheimer's disease.
The use of behavioural interventions can go a long way in improving the quality of life for both people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers and families. This may include:
- Treating co-existing medical conditions
- Improvement in the mood by participating in activities
- Behavioural interventions that can help cope with agitation, sleep issues and aggression
- Engaging the affected person in conversation
- Involving the person in regular exercise activities like swimming, walking, etc.
As Alzheimer's can have a variety of risk factors including genetic, environmental and lifestyle, clinical trials specific to the country are required without relying on those conducted in developed nations. A better knowledge of risk factors would likely influence patients and family members to seek treatment early and allow healthcare professionals to detect the disease early on its stages.
(Dr Rajnish Kumar is HOD, Neurology at Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon)
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