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6 Facts Everyone Should Definitely Know About Alzheimer’s

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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.

Alzheimers

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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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