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September 20, 2020

Pollution, brain injuries, alcohol termed risk factors for dementia


September 20, 2020

Karachi : In addition to traumatic brain journey and alcohol consumption, air pollution has emerged as a new risk factor for dementia. Modifying these risk factors along with that others that were previously identified could prevent as much as 40 per cent of dementia, experts said on Saturday.

They stated that Karachi and some other cities of the country were ranked as some of the most polluted cities of the world where traumatic brain injuries were also quite common in road accidents as commuters did not bother to wear helmets and fasten seat belts while alcohol consumption was also on the rise.

Speaking at an online international seminar at the Aga Khan University (AKU) in connection with World Alzheimer’s Day that will fall be observed tomorrow (September 21), eminent neurologists said limiting contact with air pollution, avoiding head injuries, and limiting alcohol consumption may help prevent dementia.

Dementia is a general term for a significant decline in mental ability accompanied with memory loss that disturbs daily life; whereas, Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by complex brain changes following cell damage. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, experts said.

They maintained that other risk factors for dementia include less education, hypertension, hearing impairment, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes and low social contact. It was said that most of these risk factors were modifiable and dementia could be prevented or delayed for many years by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

The online seminar was organised by the Pakistan Neurology Society (PSN). It was addressed by eminent neurologists and psychiatrists from India, Singapore and various cities of Pakistan who spoke on various aspects of Alzheimer’s disease as well as dementia and advised the people to change their lifestyle to prevent the disease, which usually strikes after the age of 60 years.

Speaking on the topic of the global perspective on Alzheimer’s disease, Prof Dr Man Mohan Mehndiratta from New Delhi said that around 50 million people lived with dementia worldwide but this number was projected to increase to 152 million by 2050. He added that dementia was rising in low- and middle-income countries where around two thirds of the people with dementia lived.

He deplored that although dementia was on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, unfortunately the family care was weakening in those countries, including India, due to migration of children and working women.

Dr Muhammad Wasay, a neurologist associated with the AKU and organiser of the seminar, spoke about the management of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, saying that once a person was diagnosed with these neurological disorders, they could not be completely cured but the progression of their disease could be slowed down with the help of medicines.

He advised the people to approach trained and qualified neurologists when their parents and elderly relatives started showing symptoms of the disease.

“Memory loss, difficulty in performing routine tasks, confusion and trouble in understanding are some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease but with the help of medicines, its progression can be slowed down and patients can live a normal life,” he said, adding that no medicine could completely stop the progression of the disease.

Dr Wasay maintained that people should not go for unproven treatment options, dietary supplements and alternative medicines as there was no proven treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. He added that in case of behavioural problems in the patients with Alzheimer’s disease, they should consult neurologists as well as psychiatrists.

Neurologist Dr Abdul Malik spoke about the incidence of dementia in Pakistan, saying that it was on the rise due to increased life expectancy in the country. He added that public awareness was needed for taking care of elderly people with dementia in the country.

Physician and professor of medicine Prof Ejaz Vohra called for strengthening family system and providing support to people with dementia, saying that such patients should not be left at the mercy of managements of old homes.

Pakistan Psychiatric Society President Prof Iqbal Afridi spoke on the psychiatric and behavioural aspects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and called for providing mental support to patients with neurological disorders. He added that even the caregivers of such patients needed counselling.

The seminar was also addressed by Dr Keira Joann from Singapore amd Prof Saleem Ullah. The chief guest of the event was Prof Dr Saleem Barech, the PSN president and faculty member at Bolan University, Quetta.