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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

World Alzheimer's Day - For a disease that threatens everyone

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Today is World Alzheimer's Disease Day, and hence an appropriate time to spread awareness about this dreaded disease.Alzheimer's disease is a progressive degenerative type of dementia in which the patient suffers from memory loss, loss of cognitive abilities,language breakdown,etc. Alzheimer's disease is presently responsible for destroying the lives of around 20million people worldwide, and is expected to double it's toll of victims by 2020. And most of the contribution is from developing countries which do not have enough awareness about the disease.

The distinguishing factor and danger with Alzheimer's disease is that it is not an active disease like a cold or flu which readily shows distinct symptoms and hence is easily identifiable. The signs of Alzheimer's appear in a much more subtle manner in most cases. The first signs include mild forgetfulness, inability to learn new things easily, failure to relate simple concepts,etc. Such signs are mostly attributed to aging or stress and hence neglected by most people. But, if you find yourself repeating such instances often then it is worth consulting a doctor.

As the stages of Alzheimer's advance the symptoms start to include shrinking vocabulary, inability to perform simple tasks such as writing or reading,forgetting names,etc. The patient may feel embarrassed to openly admit to having difficulties with such basic tasks, either due to ignorance about the disease or due to thinking about how others would react.

As Alzheimer's disease gets a more firm grip over the person, he/she begins to lose control over short-term memory, looses cognitive abilities, and starts to almost have the mind of a baby. This stage of advanced Alzheimer's disease makes it necessary to keep the patient under continuous surveillance as they lose all sense of intelligence. The patients may start repeating the same narratives again and again due to not remembering whether they already said it or not. There are even cases of people walking out alone and then not remembering their address or name. They may not remember how to cross roads, swim or stay away from any other dangers.

Though rampant studies and tests are being done worldwide, a proper cure is yet to be found for Alzheimer's. But, the lack of cure doesn't mean there is nothing that we can do to slow it down or partially prevent the onset of the disease. Lets look at a few things we can do to help ourselves and our fellow human beings.

WHAT WE CAN DO

Observe carefully- An early diagnosis could give you an extra 8-10 years of normality. hence it is of utmost importance that you observe any unusual changes in your normal activities and not consider symptoms insignificant. The same advice also holds valid to help others. Observe your family members for any changes or inabilities in carrying out simple tasks. Though things may seem silly to you, it may be of great concern to a doctor. Hence, do not delay a medical consultation out of embarrassment.

Be Supportive- Alzheimer patients often don't mention their symptoms due to fear of mockery from others. Being supportive and understanding of little things,it can be of great help to encourage the patient to be frank. The more details a doctor gets about the condition, the better are the chances of reaching a proper diagnosis. And before you ridicule someone with Alzheimer's disease, always remember that you may also suffer the same fate some day.

Spread Awareness - Most often, people are not aware of diseases such as Alzheimer's even existing. Hence it is of utmost importance that we do whatever we can to spread knowledge and information about such fatal diseases. Knowing that ones symptoms match with those of a specific disease can speed-up the process of diagnosis and can save lives. The wide use of internet and social networking has made it easier to spread information and hence acts as an apt medium to spread awareness.

Though a cure for Alzheimer's disease is still not achieved, it does not mean that we cannot handle it or make the condition bearable. There are many factors which contribute to speeding up the disease and some habits which can maybe even keep the disease at bay. Lets look at a few simple changes in lifestyle that can make the disease manageable.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES REQUIRED

Eating Right - It is well known that a healthy diet plays a vital role in maintenance of health. A balanced diet is essential in keeping not just Alzheimer's disease but also other such degenerative diseases from occurring. The availability of nutrients and anti-oxidants can help the body to repair damaged cells and keep the organs functioning smoothly.

Physical Activity - A healthy lifestyle is incomplete without adequate amounts of physical activity. An idle organ becomes weak, and thus it is necessary to improve circulation and keep your body fit. A healthy mind stays in a healthy body, and a healthy body requires exercise. It doesn't mean that you have to strain yourself. An optimum brisk walk session or games like table tennis, badminton,etc are all enjoyable exercises which can help you relieve stress and keep your body fit.

Mental Activity - Since Alzheimer's disease is a brain degenerative disease, it is naturally relevant to give your brain enough strength through adequate activity. The neurons in the brain rely on frequency of usage to build and maintain memories. Hence it is of prime importance that we rejuvenate the brain cells as much as we can. Some simple yet effective methods include yoga, meditation (check the post on Sleep Meditation for details), sudoku, boardgames, crossword puzzles,juggling etc. Though they may seem like insignificant measures, these simple activities can be of substantial help in reinforcing your memories and cognitive abilities.

Social Interaction - Though there is no doubting the domination of social networking sites in today's world, it is often the good old face-to-face interaction which will help you. Having a weekly session to socially interact with family and friends can help in relieving stress and in ensuring that you keep your mind and memories active. The necessity to speak about old incidents and the need to speak spontaneously, greatly help to keep the brain at it's peak. It has also been found that people who have some sort of weekly social interaction tend to have a life expectancy of 7-10 years more than those who don't.

Please use this noble occasion of World Alzheimer's Disease Day to spread awareness and help your fellow beings to lead a happy life. Wishing you all good health and happiness.
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