World Alzheimer’s Day

World Alzheimer’s Day is commemorated on September 21, thanks to the initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO). The aim of this date is to raise awareness of this disease, which affects not only patients but also their direct caregivers and family members. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease will reach 131 million.

The first World Alzheimer’s Day was commemorated in 1994. Since 2012, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) decided to extend the commemoration to the whole month of September and thus World Alzheimer’s Month was established.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is an incurable mental illness that gradually degenerates the brain’s nerve cells and decreases brain mass, so that patients show significant cognitive impairment that manifests itself in language difficulties, loss of sense of direction and difficulties in solving simple everyday problems.

Once the first symptoms appear, patients deteriorate and become more dependent, requiring help with dressing, grooming or eating. For this reason, permanent care by a caregiver is often necessary.

Fighting stigma

Every September, various individuals and organizations come together globally to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that persists around Alzheimer’s disease and all types of dementia.

As described in the ADI’s World Alzheimer’s Report 2019, many people still mistakenly believe that dementia is part of normal aging. That belief highlights how important public awareness campaigns, such as World Alzheimer’s Month, are in changing perceptions and increasing existing public knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Therefore, it is extremely important to recognize the risk factors associated with dementia and take proactive steps to reduce risk.

Never too early, never too late

This year’s World Alzheimer’s Day theme is “Never too early, never too late.” It aims to highlight the importance of identifying risk factors and taking proactive risk reduction measures to delay and potentially even prevent the onset of dementia. This includes ongoing risk reduction strategies for people who have already received a diagnosis.

There is a growing awareness that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can begin many years before symptoms appear, as well as the interventions and decisions that can be made for brain health across the lifespan.

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.

Risk Factors

The major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia is increasing age. Although age increases risk, dementia is not a normal part of aging.

We know that there are more than 20 genes that affect a person’s risk of developing dementia. The APOE gene was the first known to increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and remains the most potent risk gene known. There are also genes that directly cause dementia, but these deterministic genes are rare: they are estimated to account for less than 1% of dementia cases and are the ones that cause the onset of symptoms in people under the age of 60.

Although we cannot change our genes or stop aging, there are changes we can make to reduce our risk of dementia, either lifestyle changes as individuals or broader society-wide changes. There is growing evidence that there are 12 potentially modifiable risk factors. We could prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases if we were able to modify all risk factors.

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, these are the 12 risk factors for dementia that could be modified or prevented:

  1. Physical inactivity
  2. Excessive cigarette smoking
  3. Excessive alcohol consumption
  4. Air pollution
  5. Head injuries
  6. Infrequent social contact
  7. A low level of education in early life
  8. Obesity
  9. Hypertension
  10. Diabetes
  11. Depression
  12. Hearing impairment.
Share the Post:

Related Posts