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Being socially active early on can keep Alzheimer’s at bay

Experts say that although there is no preventive measure to escape Alzheimer's, being socially active and adopting a healthy lifestyle early can delay its outset, maybe even stop it altogether

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Alzheimer's disease. Wikipedia

Sept 20, 2016: If you are in your 30s or 40s and have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, now is the time to start your fight to keep the disease at bay. At least for as long as you can.

Experts say that although there is no preventive measure to escape Alzheimer’s, being socially active and adopting a healthy lifestyle early can delay its outset, maybe even stop it altogether.

“Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, and it usually hits when one is around 60-65. If you have a family history then early lifestyle changes, at age 30-40, can delay its outset or even stop it,” said Mumbai-based mental health expert Pradeep Mahajan.

“An active lifestyle, if you are a patient, can also slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s,” he added.

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Being “active” in this context has as much to do with being mentally active as it is to be physically fit. In this day and age of increasing digitisation of our lives, when we are constantly hooked to our laptops, smart phones and tabs, being socially more active, interacting with people, and getting involved in activities that push your mind to think can help one delay dementia.

Alzheimer'S, Man, Portrait. Pixabay
Alzheimer’S, Man, Portrait. Pixabay

Alzheimer’s disease or AD is the most common type of dementia, in which the mental ability of a person declines and gradually reaches such a stage that it becomes difficult for the individual to lead a normal life. It is an incurable disease with a long and progressive course.

According to the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDI), over 3.7 million people in India suffer from dementia. According to doctors, this number is expected to double by 2030. A report by ARDI further says that the estimated cost of taking care of a dementia patient is Rs 43,000 annually, and will only increase in the coming years.

Sameer Malhotra, head of the Mental Health and Behavioural Science Department at Max Hospital, Delhi, said that although AD is not curable, a combination of medication along with lifestyle changes can slow down the degeneration process.

“A good diet, breathing exercises and good sleep are found to be helpful,” Malhotra said. “For someone who has been detected with Alzheimer’s, it is important to keep his or her mind engaged. Playing Sudoku has been found to be very helpful because it keeps the mental faculties alert.”

When it comes to diet, Mahajan recommends food rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and those low on the glycemic index. Turmeric is also said to be beneficial.

He also stressed on the importance of social stimulation — actual interpersonal interactions. Isolation of the patient, doctors stress, does not work and will only hasten the degenerative process.

AD is caused because of the deposit of a protein, Amyloid, in the brain which renders parts of it — responsible for memory, thinking, calculation, and vocabulary — non-functional. The threat of the disease progressively increases with increasing age.

As the disease progresses, taking care of an AD patient can become extremely challenging and both physically and mentally exhausting. Sowmya Sahni, whose father is an AD patient, says that the worst part of the disease is to lose your loved one a bit every day.

“Someone who has raised you, who was so fiercely independent, is now dependent on somebody else to take him to the washroom, to remind him to eat his food. It’s frustrating and heart-breaking. There are times I lose my cool…and then feel guilty about it. It’s like taking care of a baby,” Sahni confessed.

Sahni decided to take help from professionals to care for her father. A full-time working woman, with an eight-year-old son to take care of, she now drops him to a day care centre for patients like him near her office and picks him up on the way back home.

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Recognising the need to support care-givers in order to take better care of AD patients, non-profits like ARDI organise regular workshops and meetings for sharing experiences, talking of possible solutions and learning from each other on how to cope with various situations. It also supports day care centres in different cities across India like Bengaluru, Calicut, Delhi and Kochi.

ARDI has also been demanding that the government recognise dementia as a disability associated with the elderly so that it is at par with other handicaps and resources can be reallocated. It also demands the setting up of memory clinics at the district level for early diagnosis and management of dementia and aid to support day care. (IANS)

  • Anubhuti Gupta

    Its sad that a disease like Alzheimers has no treatment. We must do everything we can to postpone its onset.

  • Antara

    Socially active people will now have a healthy purpose to stay hooked on to the social media!

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Living Near a Major Road or Highway Can Cause Neurological Diseases

The researchers suggest that this protective effect could be due to several factors

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Highway
Research found that living less than 50 metres from a major road or less than 150 metres from a highway is associated with a higher risk of developing neurological disorders -- likely due to increased exposure to air pollution. Pixabay

Researchers have revealed that living near a major road or highway is linked to higher incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS).

For the findings, published in the journal Environmental Health, researchers from the University of British Columbia analysed data for 678,000 adults in Metro Vancouver.

They found that living less than 50 metres from a major road or less than 150 metres from a highway is associated with a higher risk of developing neurological disorders — likely due to increased exposure to air pollution.

“For the first time, we have confirmed a link between air pollution and traffic proximity with a higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS at the population level,” said study lead author Weiran Yuchi from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Neurological disorders, a term that describes a range of disorders, are increasingly recognised as one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.

Little is known about the risk factors associated with neurological disorders, the majority of which are incurable and typically worsen over time.

For the study, researchers analysed data for 678,000 adults between the ages of 45 and 84 who lived in Metro Vancouver from 1994 to 1998 and during a follow-up period from 1999 to 2003.

Highway
Researchers have revealed that living near a major road or highway is linked to higher incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS). Pixabay

They estimated individual exposures to road proximity, air pollution, noise and greenness at each person’s residence using postal code data.

During the follow-up period, the researchers identified 13,170 cases of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, 4,201 cases of Parkinson’s disease, 1,277 cases of Alzheimer’s disease and 658 cases of MS.

For non-Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease specifically, living near major roads or a highway was associated with 14 per cent and seven per cent increased risk of both conditions, respectively.

When the researchers accounted for green space, they found the effect of air pollution on the neurological disorders was mitigated.

The researchers suggest that this protective effect could be due to several factors.

Highway
A Study estimated individual exposures to road and Highway proximity, air pollution, noise and greenness at each person’s residence using postal code data. Pixabay

“For people who are exposed to a higher level of green space, they are more likely to be physically active and may also have more social interactions,” said study senior author Michael Brauer.

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“There may even be benefits from just the visual aspects of vegetation,” Brauer added. (IANS)