Alzheimer’s Threat: One in 8 suffering from cognitive decline

Three-fold rise in dementia in 30 yrs | Experts call for lifestyle changes

Alzheimer’s Threat: One in 8 suffering from cognitive decline

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21

A dementia epidemic is looming in the country with one in eight Indians suffering from cognitive decline today as against 1 in 25 in 1990.

Cognitive reserve can be built by avoiding smoking and alcohol, and eating healthy. Manjari Tripathi, Neurologist at AIIMS, Delhi

The Government data of Alzheimer’s Disease, the commonest form of dementia, shows a three-fold rise in the prevalence of cognitive decline over 1990, signaling the urgent need to address risk factors for the chronic neurodegenerative disease which leaves patients and families broken on account of the massive psychological and medical costs.

As Indians age successfully with advancements in medical science, experts say it’s urgent to build individual cognitive reserves from an early age to fight dementia.

Leading neurologist with AIIMS New Delhi Manjari Tripathi says 35 pc of dementia is attributable to a combination of modifiable risk factors which can be addressed at early stages.

“From a young age itself we need to work on our cognitive reserves. Cognitive reserve is the ability of the brain to resist disease by modifiable life experiences so that we can push back dementia by several years. This reserve can be built by avoiding smoking, alcohol, eating healthy, consuming unsaturated oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, taking regular walks, avoiding sugar and too much protein and practicing small meals and intermittent diet,” advises Tripathi.

The expert says engagement in brain games and avoiding long hours before the computer are avoidable risk factors.

Research has further revealed that neurotic personalities are more prone to cognitive decline and it pays to keep the mind calm with meditation. Western countries, Tripathi notes, have reduced the burden of Alzheimer’s by implementing lifestyle changes.

On the research front, dementia – an umbrella term for degenerative diseases -- most common being Alzheimer's Disease – remains a very complex disease with scientists still studying the triggers.

“Currently about every seven seconds there is one case of dementia and one person will develop major cognitive decline because we are aging successfully. We are still learning about the disease. What we know is it leads to shrinking of the brain memory cells and has two main causes -- non-modifiable (genes and age) and modifiable,” says Tripathi, associated with the Delhi chapter of Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India.

Experts also call for reading the early warning signs of dementia that start with small memory lapses and changes in the ability to discharge normal activities and tasks like reading, writing and comprehending.

“We want to pick up a patient early where mild memory and behavior changes are visible. At that stage we can help more by stemming some level of progression,” Tripathi says.

Experts also call for policy makers to create awareness on the need for advanced directives and living wills by the elderly in India. Evidence shows huge implications of Alzheimer’s Disease among Indian patients because often the elderly have the money in their bank accounts but they have forgotten to read, write and sign because of the disease. Advanced directives and living wills can aid the autonomy of patients, experts note.

World Alzheimer’s Day is observed on September 21 every year.

The government data of Alzheimer’s disease, the commonest form of dementia, shows a three-fold rise in the prevalence of cognitive decline in 30 years (from 1990 to 2020), signalling the urgent need to address risk factors for the chronic neurodegenerative disease which leaves patients and families broken on account of the massive psychological and medical costs.

As Indians age successfully with advancements in medical science, experts say it’s urgent to build individual cognitive reserves from an early age to fight dementia.

Leading neurologist with AIIMS, New Delhi, Manjari Tripathi says 35 per cent of dementia is attributable to a combination of modifiable risk factors which can be addressed at an early stage.

“From a young age itself, we need to work on our cognitive reserves. Cognitive reserve is the ability of the brain to resist disease by modifiable life experiences so that we can push back dementia by several years. This reserve can be built by avoiding smoking, alcohol, eating healthy, consuming unsaturated oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, taking regular walks, avoiding sugar and too much protein and eating small meals,” says Tripathi.

Experts call for reading the early warning signs of dementia that start with small memory lapses and changes in the ability to discharge normal activities. 

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