We Talk To The Experts About Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease can often be confused with dementia and although the two are connected, they are not the same thing. Here are the main differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia:
- Dementia is an umbrella term for the symptoms that affect your mental cognition such as your memory. Or as Alzheimer’s Society puts it, “Dementia describes different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function. These conditions are all usually progressive and eventually severe.”
- Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common disease that can cause dementia, “affecting 62 per cent of those diagnosed.”
So why should you care about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? Here are a few eye-opening facts you have to know:
- Someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds.
- Recent statistics show that circa 50 million people around the world have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.
- The total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050.
- Recent insights show that two-thirds of all Alzheimer’s cases are in women.
- Total payments in 2019 for health care, long-term care and hospice services for people aged 65 and over with dementia are estimated to be $290 billion worldwide.
It’s more than likely that now, or sometime in the future, you’ll know (or know of) someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. So to get the facts, we’ve asked the people who relentlessly raise Alzhiemer’s awareness 365 days a year, for their advice, answers and insights into this life-changing disease.
Including expert dementia neuroscientists and charities such as Alzheimer’s Disease International and Alzheimer’s Society.
Q. How long does Alzheimer’s take to develop before you see any warning signs?
A. “The brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease start many years, sometimes decades, before any warning signs start to show. This period of change is called the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s, and it’s caused by the gradual build-up of harmful proteins in the brain. Symptoms will generally only start to show after a few years of this process, when the person will start to show changes in their memory and thinking ability that persist and worsen, over time, affecting their day-to-day activities. Thankfully, researchers are working towards finding ways to treat the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, so hopefully one day we can stop it in its tracks before the memory problems start to arise.”Sally Sheldon, Neuroscientist @ Peak – Brain Training
Q. Are there any common symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
A. “The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are problems with memory and loss of navigational ability. This is because both of these abilities are mainly controlled by the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s disease. However, Alzheimer’s disease can cause other symptoms too, such as sleep disturbances and changes in behaviour.”Sally Sheldon, Neuroscientist @ Peak – Brain Training
Q. Is Alzheimer’s hereditary?
A. “There are over 200 sub-types of dementia and the most common form of these is Alzheimer’s disease. Most dementias are not hereditary, meaning they are not genetically inherited, and this is the case for Alzheimer’s disease in around 99% of cases. In some rarer types of dementia there may be a stronger genetic link, but the proportion is very small. There are in fact many other factors that may increase the risk of dementia; age being the main one, but there are modifiable risk factors such as physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking and even lack of social interaction.”Paola Barbarino, Chief Executive Officer, Alzheimer’s Disease International
Q. Are there any preventative measures when it comes to Alzheimer’s?
A. “These modifiable risk factors are – as the name suggests – things that can be modified to potentially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other brain diseases leading to dementia. Keeping fit, eating well, quitting smoking, maintaining an active lifestyle and challenging your brain are all simple ways that could reduce your risk of developing dementia. However, these factors may decrease an individual’s risk of dementia – it is not a certainty. New WHO Guidelines provide evidence that by reducing these 20-30% of dementia cases could be prevented, which is so important in the absence of a disease-modifying treatment.”Paola Barbarino, Chief Executive Officer, Alzheimer’s Disease International
Q. How is Alzheimer’s Disease International helping Alzheimer’s and dementia?
A. “ADI is the global voice on dementia and the umbrella organisation of 100 Alzheimer associations and federations around the world, in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO). We work to raise global awareness about dementia including via our annual World Alzheimer’s Month campaign, global conference and regional meetings. This year ADI is also working in partnership with PAHO to deliver a regional dementia awareness campaign for the Americas, aligned with the final year of their strategy.
We work at a multilateral level to ensure dementia is a global priority, and this year our advocacy work ensured that dementia was specifically included in the G20 declaration. High level meetings at a national level and supporting our member associations helps us keep the focus on governments committing to the development of national dementia plans, a key target of the WHO Global action plan on dementia. In addition, we build and strengthen Alzheimer associations globally to meet the needs of people with dementia and their carers, including via our Alzheimer University training programme.
We advocate for people with dementia and their carers in our reports and in collaboration with partner organisations, including Dementia Alliance International (DAI). We stimulate research, especially in low-and-middle-income countries and most recently we launched our World Alzheimer Report 2019: Attitudes to dementia, launched on 20 September, based on a survey of almost 70,000 people globally.”Paola Barbarino, Chief Executive Officer, Alzheimer’s Disease International
Q. What stigmas are attached to having Alzheimer’s?
A. “Families affected by dementia are facing an illness that’s often frightening and debilitating. They shouldn’t also have to deal with ignorance, thoughtlessness and cruelty from the people around them.We often hear from carers who’ve had to deal with rude comments or stares while out in public with their loved one.
We’ve heard from people with dementia who’ve had to listen to unpleasant jokes or thoughtless comments from people who just don’t understand the realities of their condition. Dementia isn’t a joke – and people affected by it deserve to be treated with understanding and respect. ”Esther Watts, Alzheimer’s Society
Q. How can our readers help create change when it comes to the stigma around Alzheimer’s?
A. “Go to www.dementiafriends.org.uk and sign up as a Dementia Friend. This will help you learn a little more about dementia and what it is like to live with the condition. There are online sessions and a face to face route.
I thoroughly recommend the face to face session. Delivered by volunteers, it is a 45-minute information session which is interactive and fun. Everyone learns something, even those who think they are experts by experience. And you get a cool badge!
Join the social movement to change the way we think, talk and act around dementia.”
Esther Watts from Alzheimer’s Society
Thank you to all those who shared their insights into Alzheimer’s disease with Peak – Brain Training.