Everyone has moments of forgetfulness some time or the other, especially when life gets busy. Misplacing car keys, remote control or forgetting names are common memory lapses. While this can be a completely normal occurrence, loss of cognitive functions with age can be a clear sign of Alzheimer's disease. To break the silence around the disease which has no cure, India TV sought advice from Dr Vishal Sehgal, President, Medical Services, Portea Medical.
"There is no cure for Alzheimer's" - how true is the statement and what exactly does it mean?
Alzheimer's is a neurological disorder that is progressive in nature. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. There are only certain approved drugs which help alleviate some of the symptoms - partially and temporarily - but do not stop the disease from progressing.
What is the difference between Alzheimer and Dementia?
Dementia refers to a set of symptoms that affect cognitive functioning. Depending on the type and cause dementia can affect a person's memory, thinking and focus, problem solving abilities, language use, and visual perception. On the other hand, Alzheimer's is a type of dementia in which there is a progressive damage to the brain cells. This leads to memory loss and decline in other aspects of thinking.
Is memory loss such as misplacing car keys, calling wrong names the first symptom of Alzheimer's?
It is true that each one of us can get forgetful time and again which is likely to happen as age advances. However, what is also true is that very early stages of Alzheimer's can seem like normal, age-related forgetfulness. This can include memory lapses, forgetting names, misplacing car keys, etc. These lapses become more frequent and therefore, it is important to notice and get treatment to slow the progression.
Are traffic noise or high decibel sounds linked to dementia?
According to research, exposure to noise from traffic on roads and railways over a long period is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease. A possible explanation for this could be that noise releases stress hormones and causes sleep disturbance. This leads to a type of coronary artery disease, changes in the immune system and inflammation. All these are early signs of dementia onset and Alzheimer's disease.
What role does age play in Alzheimer's?
Age is one of the greatest risk factors for Alzheimer's. However, this disorder is not a normal part of the ageing process. Age may increase the risk of this condition but is not a direct cause. After the age of 65, Alzheimer's risk doubles every five years.
What are the risk factors?
Some triggers or risk factors for Alzheimer's include age, family history of the disease, certain lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, prior head injury, and sleep disorders.
Do food habits also factor in?
Food habits are an important aspect of preventing Alzheimer's. Based on an analysis of observational diets, nutrition akin to a Mediterranean diet can reduce the likelihood of cognitive decline and dementia. Such a diet can provide the brain with the much-needed dose of antioxidants and other substances. A healthy diet will also ensure that any associated risk factors such as blood sugar and blood pressure are also kept in control.
How to deal with Alzheimer in loved ones? What is the role of a caregiver?
Family is the first point of care for those with Alzheimer's. The role of a caregiver is also paramount. There are certain ways to help a loved one cope with the condition:
- Educate yourself and learn how to respond when a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
- Be patient with them. Every person who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's tends to react differently and it is an ongoing process to help them cope.
- Alzheimer's diagnosis can be stressful for the family and simple support can go a long way.
- Make sure you engage the person in conversation or small activities that can help them challenge their brain.
- Be flexible in your approach and do not get frustrated in case the person with Alzheimer's does not accept your support immediately.