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World’s Alzheimer’s Day- What you need to know

With more than 1.5 million cases yearly in Nigeria, and nearly 10 million cases every year, what exactly is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. It is a progressive disease that starts with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment. Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.

Also known as senile dementia, the incurable disease is most common in people over the age of 65, but in rare cases affects younger people.

Alzheimer’s is currently the seventh leading cause of death amongst all diseases and one of the major causes of disability globally and there is yet to be a specific cause for the disease. Some of the factors known to trigger Alzheimer include;

 Age: The chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles every 5 years after you reach 65. However, around 1 in 20 people are at risk of developing the disease that is under the age of 65.

Cardiovascular disease: Research has shown that lifestyle factors and conditions related to cardiovascular diseases can increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. These include; obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

Genetics: There is a small chance that genes inherited from your parents can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. But in a few families, inheritance of a single gene can cause Alzheimer’s disease and also the risks of the condition being passed down.

Head Injuries: sometimes, severe head injuries can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but research is ongoing in this area.

Some other factors that risk the development of Alzheimer’s disease include

-Untreated Depression

-Loneliness

-Hearing loss

-An Inactive lifestyle

Alzheimer’s disease affects everyone differently as the severity and the timing may differ for each person. However, there are stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and these stages act as guidelines that help determine severity. But, these stages may overlap.

  1. Before Symptoms Appear – often called the ‘Pre-clinical Alzheimer’s stage” may begin 10 – 15 years before symptoms appear.
  2. Basic Forgetfulness – the early stages can appear to be normal-aged forgetfulness.
  3. Noticeable Memory Difficulties – at this stage, a person’s daily routine is disrupted. Having trouble remembering recently read books or magazines, difficulty retrieving a name, or challenges in social gatherings or at work.
  4. More than Memory Loss – in this stage, there might be difficulty with organization, language, and calculations, as there is significant damage to the brain.
  5. Decreased Independence – at this stage, there is trouble remembering important people, struggle to learn new things, and challenges doing basic tasks like getting dressed up. There might also be cases of hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.
  6. Severe Symptoms – at this stage, dependency on others is required as there might be extreme difficulty in communicating thoughts, increased anxiety, paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. There might also be changes in behavior. One should remember that these changes and behaviors are done unaware.
  7. Lack of Physical Control – in this stage, the brain cells have received damage thereby causing serious mental and physical challenges. The body begins to slowly shut down and the mind struggles to communicate and assign tasks. The body is prone to infections and there is reduced mobility.

As the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease remains unknown, there is no certain way to prevent the condition, but there a few ways to help reduce the risk. Some are;

-Improving healthy lifestyle to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

-remaining mentally and socially active

-stop smoking

-reduce alcohol

-exercise often

-eat healthy

The alzheirmerssoc provides information and support to people who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. There might be no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but there are treatments, support and information that help manage the disease.

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