Never too early, never too late

By Faiza M.
Tue, 09, 23

You! takes a look at the upcoming World Alzheimer’s Day, and how early symptoms can be identified to avoid early onset…

Never too early, never too late

world alzheimer’s day

Imagine a world where memories play hide and seek, where the past fades like a distant dream. Alzheimer’s, a thief of memories, silently robs millions of their cherished moments and leaves a trail of unanswered questions. To raise awareness against this disease, World Alzheimer’s Day (WAD) is celebrated on September 21st each year. The disease is among the most prevalent forms of dementia; a set of disorders that disrupt mental function. The WAD is an international campaign aimed at raising awareness and challenge the common stigma that surrounds Alzheimer related dementia.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that impairs memory and other mental functions. It is the most common form of dementia that generalises memory loss and loss of other essential cognitive abilities that are serious enough to interfere with an individual’s daily life.

The theme for World Alzheimer’s Day 2023 is ‘Never too early, never too late’. This campaign aims to underscore the pivotal role of identifying risk factors and adopting proactive risk reduction measures to delay, and potentially even prevent, the onset of dementia. This includes ongoing risk reduction strategies for individuals who have already received a diagnosis.

There is growing awareness that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can start many years prior to symptoms, likewise awareness of the lifelong brain health interventions and choices that can be made. With the global number of people living with dementia expected to triple by 2050, there has never been a more urgent need to understand and respond to the risk factors associated with this condition.

History of World Alzheimer’s Day

World Alzheimer’s Day was introduced on 21st September 1994 in Edinburgh, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). ADI is an organisation founded in 1984 with an aim to support and guide the Alzheimer’s affected people and families. The disease got its name from ‘Alois Alzheimer’, a German psychiatrist, who first discovered this disorder while treating a lady in 1901.

The first ‘World Alzheimer Report’ was launched in 2009 on World Alzheimer’s Day and yearly reports have been issued every year since. Although the impact of the observance is spreading, the information gap and stigmatisation concerning dementia remains an issue. Many people see the disease as a natural part of the aging process. Though this may not be true, a great risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is increasing age. This is evident by majority of Alzheimer’s patients being 65 years or older. This doesn’t completely classify the disease as an elderly disease.

Since its inception, the impact of World Alzheimer’s Day is increasing. However, the stigmatisation and lack of information surrounding it remains to be a global problem that calls for global action.

Never too early, never too late

Risk factors to avoid early onset:

Although we can’t change our genes or stop ageing, there are changes that we can make to reduce our risk of dementia, either lifestyle changes as individuals or wider changes across society. A growing body of research evidence exists for few potentially modifiable risk factors might prevent or delay up to 40 per cent of cases of dementia.

Physical inactivity - Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. It’s good for your heart circulation, weight and mental wellbeing. It is recommended that adults aim for either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week.

Smoking - Smoking greatly increases your risk of developing dementia. You’re also increasing your risk of other conditions, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, and lung and other cancers. It’s never too late - stopping smoking later in life also reduces the risk of dementia.

Air pollution - A growing amount of research evidence shows that air pollution increases the risk of dementia. Policymakers should expedite improvements in air quality, particularly in areas with high air pollution.

Head injury - Head injuries are most commonly caused by car, motorcycle, and bicycle accidents; military exposures; boxing, football, hockey and other sports; violent assaults and falls. Policymakers should use public health and other policy measures to reduce head injuries.

Unhealthy weight - Particularly in mid-life, obesity is associated with an increased risk of dementia. This problem can generally be addressed through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.

Hypertension - High blood pressure in mid-life increases a person’s risk of dementia, as well as causing other health problems. Medication for hypertension is the only known effective preventive medication for dementia.

Diabetes - Type 2 diabetes is a clear risk factor for development of future dementia. Timely treatment of diabetes is important to prevent onset.

Depression - Depression is part of the prodromal of dementia (a symptom that occurs before the symptoms that are used for diagnosis). It is important to manage and treat depression because it can lead to increased disability, physical illnesses and can cause worse outcomes for people with dementia.

Hearing impairment - People with hearing loss have a significantly increased risk of dementia. Using hearing aids seems to reduce the risk. As hearing loss is one of the risk factors which affects most people, addressing it could result in a large impact on the number of people developing dementia.

Infrequent social contact - It is well established that social connectedness reduces the risk of dementia. Social contact enhances cognitive reserve or encourages beneficial behaviours.