As old age progresses, dementia, also called forgetfulness disease, becomes synonymous with old age. However, the occurrence of dementia is not limited to age alone. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and approximately 70-80% of people with dementia are diagnosed with the disease. In order to raise public awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and dispel misconceptions surrounding it, World Alzheimer’s Day is celebrated on September 21 each year. The theme for World Alzheimer’s Day 2022 is – Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s Disease – with a focus on the warning signs and diagnosis of the disease.

Dr. Amit Shankar Singh, Associate Consultant in Neurology, Fortis Hospital Mohali, explains in an opinion the causes, symptoms, prevention and treatment options of Alzheimer’s disease.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?
It is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that causes brain shrinkage (atrophy) and brain cell death. The disease is characterized by a decline in an individual’s cognitive abilities such as learning, memory, language, attention, motor skills and social skills.

Causes:Although the causes of Alzheimer’s disease remain unclear, genetic inheritance is one of the main causes of the disease. It is also due to the abnormal deposition of proteins – amyloid proteins and neuritic plaques – in the brain, thus causing the death of brain cells. People over the age of 65 are more likely to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The incidence of the disease is also higher in women than in men.

Symptoms: The easily identifiable warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease are:

· Memory problems: Memory problems are the first symptom of this disease. Dementia sets in and memory gradually deteriorates. This leads to difficulties in thinking, reasoning and understanding.

· Changes in behavior: Patients with Alzheimer’s disease show symptoms such as depression, confusion and inability to concentrate. They tend to ignore their surroundings.

· Difficulty in language, speech: Alzheimer’s disease causes speech problems. Affected people are unable to convey the meaning of things and are unable to understand, which leads to confusion.

· Unable to perform everyday tasks: Patients have slowed thinking, which affects their cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s disease increases an individual’s dependence on others because they are unable to communicate their needs.

Diagnostic ” Alzheimer’s disease should be suspected in any older person with progressive memory decline. Neurologists perform brain imaging, diagnostic and mental capacity tests, etc. to detect disease. These help identify possible causes of brain impairment.

Prevention: Shedding light on Alzheimer’s disease, Dr Shankar said: “Even though there is no proven way to prevent the disease, regular physical activity, meditation, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight health and blood pressure control help keep the brain healthy.”

Dr Shankar added: “It should be remembered that Alzheimer’s disease is not part of normal aging. A few medications help control the symptoms of the disease. Along with medications, family support, physical and cognitive rehabilitation are an integral part of disease management.

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