Alzheimer's: A Growing Concern

Jan 17, 2014 By Pranav, Young Editor
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[Editor: A very nice piece on Alzheimer's sent in by one of our readers in United Kingdom]

Life expectancy is rising. As more and more people tackle health problems by living a healthier lifestyle by not smoking etc, the real threat is looming; Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions.  A recent study has shown a possible link between a pesticide called DDT and Alzheimer's.

DDT was used extensively to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes and protect crops against pests. Patients with Alzheimer's were found to have four times the amount of DDT in their bloodstream. Though the study is very preliminary and more research needs to be done. scientists are continuing to look for causes - both environmental and genetic. 

One Factor: Age

The likelihood of developing the condition doubles every five years after you reach 65 years of age. There are two types of Alzheimer's—early-onset and late-onset. Both types have a genetic component.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is very rare, representing less than 5 percent of all people who have Alzheimer's. However, it is not just older people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer's. It usually develops slowly and gradually gets worse as more brain cells wither and die. Ultimately, Alzheimer's is fatal, and currently, there is no cure. It is characterized by the loss of connections between nerve cells, neurons in the brain, and the death of these nerve cells.

Another Factor: Heredity

Depending on your history, your chances of being diagnosed with AD differ. Scientists at the G8 Dementia summit have conducted research and their results show that if you follow ‘the famous five’, then the likelihood of diagnosis will be decreased. Don’t smoke, stay thin, exercise, eat healthy and don’t drink too much.

Another factor to take in to account is heredity. This means that if someone in your family has had AD, then you are more likely to have it too.

Caring For Alzheimer's Patients

Annually, 31 billion pounds is the cost to the UK directly related to the brain degenerating disease. In the US, more than 5 million people are living with the disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death. It is not just the patients that are affected by AD, but their caretakers too. Having AD comes with the need for care 24/7. Due to this, many more lives are consumed by it.

However, with advances in medical research, and promised funding to cure Alzheimer’s in many developed nations, the fight against Alzheimer's is on.

Courtesy BBC, alz.org