World Alzheimer’s Day
World Alzheimer’s Day is on the 21st September each year. The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive mental deterioration affecting multiple brain functions, which may develop gradually and become more severe over time. It is the most common type of dementia.
What are the risk factors?
- Age – the older the person is, the stronger the risk for dementia
- Alcohol consumption –excessive consumption of alcohol in those under the age of 65 years has an increased risk
- Education level – low educational level, less mentally demanding jobs and less cognitive stimulation are associated with an increased risk of dementia
- Social life – less social activity may contribute to stress, depression and loneliness which increases the risk of dementia
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Learning difficulties
- Genetics/family history
- Parkinson’s Disease (PD)
- Diabetes and cardiovascular disease
Symptoms and severity of dementia vary from person to person due to individual factors, their support system and environment. Early symptoms may start off with mild memory loss (e.g. forgetting recent events). This may develop to symptoms which consist of:
- Problems with language and speech
- Difficulty with planning and problem solving
- Confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places
- Delusions and/or hallucinations
- Behavioral symptoms such as agitation, mood swings and aggressiveness
- Depression and anxiety
- Being withdrawn and lack of interest
- Difficulty with day-to-day activities
What are the complications?
- Clinical complications – reduced ability to carry out daily activities. Complex care needs are required for incontinence, eating disorders, sleeplessness and behavioral symptoms
- Social complications – being socially isolated and restriction of activities may complicate prognosis
- Financial complications – a person may experience hardship when losing their job due to the symptoms of dementia, or their carer may give up their job to look after them, which of course will have a negative impact on this person as well
- Behavioral and psychological symptoms are associated with increased hospital admissions, long-term care placement, reduced quality of life and mortality
Can Alzheimer’s be prevented?
There is no known way to prevent dementia. However, there are actions that you can take to reduce the risk for dementia and, in some cases, slow the progression of the disease. These factors include:
- Exercise and stay active as it will aid both physical and mental well-being
- Eat a balanced, low-fat diet
- Stop smoking
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Reduce cardiovascular risk through lifestyle changes and managing the condition(s)
- Avoid head injury
- Do mental activities