By Sanjay Suresh:
We all like to romanticize the idea of dying at an extremely old age with friends and family crowding around our death bed waiting for our final words with tears in their eyes. When death comes knocking on our door, we hope and pray that it’s swift and considerably painless. Considering the many million diseases that one can contract to miserably die, the Alzheimer’s disease paints the bleakest picture. The disease slowly disintegrates a person’s brain functions, making him lose his abilities of speech, thought and memory.
Being one of the worst forms of dementia, the Alzheimer’s disease does not have a cure yet. Clumps of malfunctioning protein and cellular debris damage the healthy cells in the brain leading to complete functional breakdown over time. Recent studies show that the number of reported cases of the disease has been in a steady rise and by 2025 around 34 million people could be affected by the disease. But other than the most obvious symptoms of memory loss and inability to do daily activities, many us fail to understand the little intricacies of this disease. There is so much more to Alzheimer’s disease than what meets the eye and it is six such facts about this disease that I wish to share with you.
1. Is Alzheimer’s disease genetic?
When I hear of a particularly terrifying disease, the first think I try to asses are my chances of contracting that disease. Now you can’t change the genes that you are made up off. So what if you have a chromosome somewhere which can slowly push you into the Alzheimer’s disease? Is that even possible?
Studies indicate that in over 99% of the cases this is not the case. If you have a family member who has the disease, it does not affect your chances of getting the disease in any way. A major reason for this is the age factor which has a huge say in this disease. However, a small fraction of cases have been reported where people contract the disease at a considerably younger age. This strand of the disease is mostly due a possible defect in their genes.
2. The older you get, the higher your chances
The nature of the disease is such that it is easy for an older person to contract the disease than a younger person. In fact by the age of 80, it is said that every one out of five people have the disease. This is probably because of the accumulation of debris in brain cells which gradually increase with age but no definite reason has been discovered for the phenomenon.
3. Women have higher risk than men
Believe it or not, for the same age group women have a higher risk of contracting the disease than men. Now there are many theories for this peculiar predicament, none of which have been definitely proven. Many believing that this is because of the higher hormonal activity in the female body which make women susceptible to this kind of functional decline. There are also other theories revolving around the facts that men have better reserves, difference in genetic makeup etc.
4. Every Alzheimer’s case is different
Even the disease as such is the same, the manifestation of the disease changes from person to person. Everything from the progression of the symptoms and the type of symptoms shown can vary. And hence, a person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s could live from 8 to 20 years from the point of diagnosis.
5. No cure, but treatment is an option
Even though a cure has not yet been discovered, there is a lot of scope for treatment. In fact, studies believe that the progression of the disease can be slowed down to a considerable extent by treatment and care. The nature of the disease is such that if diagnosed early, an appropriate care plan might significantly improve the quality of life of the patient.
6. It is not just memory loss
One of the biggest misconceptions about the Alzheimer’s disease is that it is merely a severe, progressive form of memory loss. Memory loss is just the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease as such slowly stops all common bodily functions. Even normal and basic activities like moving, eating becomes sluggish till the patient eventually forgets how to function completely. And it is in this fashion that the disease always results in death.
The Alzheimer’s disease is type of slow killer which takes a huge toll from our immediate family as well. Keeping your mind active with daily puzzles, crosswords etc. has often been cited as a method of keeping the disease at bay. If you are one of your near and dear ones have contracted the disease, it is important that you stay strong, patient and offer your physical as well as mental aid. Because for Alzheimer’s disease, this is what the patient needs more than any kind of medicine.