Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive form of brain disorder or dementia that slowly worsens brain functions. It gradually affects memory and thinking skills, making simple tasks difficult so much that it begins to affect their daily living. It is believed to happen with ageing, and people with a family history are at a greater risk. Most people with AD get a diagnosis after the age of 65 years, while for those who experience it earlier, it is termed as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month – time to know all about it. For a healthy 45 plus life, it is important to know about AD and make necessary lifestyle changes to protect your health.

All You Need To Know About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. Dr. Alzheimer, in 1906, observed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who passed away after a mental illness. She had been experiencing memory loss, difficulty in using language, and unpredictable behaviour. On examining her brain, he found that there were many abnormal clumps (later found to be amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (neurofibrillary tangles). Also, the loss of connection between neurons is a common feature of AD. As a result, the message and communication between different parts of the brain and from the brain to the muscles and organs in the body can be affected.
Dementia is a loss of cognitive functioning – like thinking, reasoning, and memorizing or remembering. It also affects the behavioural abilities that gradually worsen to the extent that it interferes with the daily tasks and routine life. Alzheimer’s disease is the commonest form of dementia occurring in older adults, which is why the aging population needs to be more careful.

Symptoms and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

Some of the commonest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include memory problems. Initially, people experience memory problems that are more compared to their age and other peers. Eventually, this begins to worsen and begin interfering with daily tasks. They may easily forget things, repeat sentences over and over again, misplace belongings, forget names of family members and friends, and have difficulty expressing their thoughts and emotions.
Some people also begin to experience difficulty in concentrating, multitasking, or following multiple commands. Making judgments, decision making, and planning of activities may become difficult. Some may have movement difficulties, problems with a sense of smell, which can also lead to changes in social behaviours. Indifference, social withdrawal, depressed feeling, mood swings, irritability, changes in sleeping habits are common.

Creating a Supportive Environment

As a family member, you have to take care of your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

• Make sure all valuable things mobiles, wallets, keys, documents, etc are kept safely. Consider keeping a call bell to use for help at home. Use a medical alert bracelet bearing name and emergency contact numbers when going out.
• Keep medicines in a proper place, handle them carefully, and label them with the respective dosages. Keep the doctor’s prescription and contact handy with emergency numbers.
• Maintain a checklist of tasks to refer to, make a note of every important point. Maintain a diary of events, keep photo albums handy with names marked for identification.
• Keep the room clean, clear off the clutter, and consider placing railing for support. Use ergonomic furniture and make adjustments wherever needed.
Lifestyle Tips to Stay Healthy
While it is not clear if Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented or not, adopting certain healthy lifestyle measures can surely help you stay healthy. If you can prevent untimely degeneration and can maintain emotional and physical fitness, you can protect your health to a great extent.
Some of the factors like diet, activity levels, and challenges to the brain may be helpful. Here are some health and lifestyle tips for a healthy 45 plus.
• Experts believe that a Mediterranean diet has been associated with reduced risk of dementia and can be helpful. It mainly includes abundant use of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, nuts, herbs, and olive oil for cooking.
• Consume a balanced diet – prefer a plant-based diet, with healthy fats and avoid red meat or have it occasionally.
• Include healthy fats like walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds,
• Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
• Be active – both physically and socially. Plan a routine with regular walks, jogging, cycling, aerobics, or perform regular yoga.
• You can also perform daily exercises with your family and enjoy quality time at the same time.
• Go out in the open, meet friends, or stay connected with them in the best possible way. Plan regular meets and plays games that are enjoyable and challenging for the mind.
• Indulge in activities that train your brain – like solving puzzles, riddles, participating in quizzes, challenges, playing games that make you think. Some people also enjoy video games or mobile games, which may be good, but in moderation.
• Also, choose activities that are relaxing for your mind – listen to soothing music, paint a picture, read a book, or write about your feelings.

Limit passive activities like watching television and spend more time doing active tasks that make you think, remember, analyse, and use such cognitive skills.

Ageing can be healthy, if you make healthy choices right now.
Let us be more aware, more responsible and pledge to have a healthy lifestyle to protect our health in every possible way.

References
1. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet

Dr Snehal Singh