In 40 years, 770,000 are likely to have Alzheimer’s

Focus on Alzheimer’s disease is growing around the world.

Unforgettable day for Alzheimer’s

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day – a day to create more awareness about a fatal disease striking down more Australians each year.

An estimated 425,000 Australians have dementia, with the number projected to reach more than 1.1 million by 2056. Of those, 770,000 are likely to have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Before last century, the disease was relatively uncommon because few people lived long enough to develop what is essentially a deterioration of the brain’s ability to function properly.

Nowadays, with better health and medical interventions, older people can expect to live many more years than their forebears did, but unfortunately not without the consequences that ageing brings to the body’s organs, including our grey matter.

Alzheimer’s is just one of about 100 diseases that come under the umbrella of dementia. Other similar illnesses include vascular dementia, Lewy body disease, frontotemporal dementia and alcohol-related dementia.

What makes Alzheimer’s stand apart is that it affects 70 per cent of all people with dementia.

According to Dementia Australia, Alzheimer’s disease affects three in 10 people over the age of 85.

The illnesses’ main symptoms are impaired memory, thinking and behaviour.

Named after German neurologist Dr Alois Alzheimer, who first recorded the disease in 1907, it was not until the 1970s that Dr Robert Katzman declared that ‘senile dementia’ and Alzheimer’s were the same condition and not a normal part of ageing.

At the turn of last century, Dr Alzheimer had observed changes in the brain of a deceased middle-aged woman called Auguste Deter. He discovered that the outer layer of the brain showed signs of shrinkage due to the death of brain cells This part, known as the cortex, is associated with storing memories, language and judgement.

He also discovered abnormal deposits in the dead woman’s brain – plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The latter add to the demise of brain cells by blocking the movement of nutrients. Plaques block signals from being passed between cells.

Science has yet to pinpoint why some individuals develop Alzheimer’s and others do not, however, dozens of studies are looking into potential causes, including environmental, biochemical and immunity factors.

A number of tests can be used to try to determine whether individuals are suffering from the disease. But so far, there is no cure that will eliminate the condition.

What does exist are drugs called cholinergerics, which provide temporary improvement in cognitive functioning for those with mild Alzheimer’s.

For more information contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. A range of books and videos are also available from Dementia Australia libraries and Help Sheets can be accessed from the organisation’s site.

To find a Dementia Awareness Month event near you during September, visit the Dementia Australia site or you can watch a video on how technology is addressing the condition. A new documentary on dementia, Every Three Seconds, has also been released by Alzheimer’s Disease International.

How concerned are you that you will be affected by Alzheimer’s? Do you have experience of the condition among your family or friends? Did you know that early detection can slow the deterioration of the disease?

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    COMMENTS

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    Seadove
    21st Sep 2018
    11:02am
    This is the problem with the medical world now. They don't ask permission to give you medications to keep you alive for all those extra years though. Yet when people are so old and are suffering from these insidious diseases of dementia and cancer they suddenly say 'no' we can't help you end your suffering and pain so just keep on existing till nature takes its course. If they know this to be a problem that living longer results in higher numbers of these diseases then that has to go hand in hand with being able to have assisted dying.
    Maggie
    21st Sep 2018
    11:18am
    I totally agree with you Seadove. At the moment it looks as though only a few people can even hope for assisted dying. What about the rest who have very little or no quality of life because of the pain they endure?

    So many decisions are made for us by younger people with high ideals and imaginations full of loving affordable care. I have noticed that that it is generally only younger people who have witnessed really dreary lives and really bad deaths who show older people any real understanding.
    Jennie
    21st Sep 2018
    1:57pm
    And I agree too. Dementia scares me more than any other disease. If you have a diagnosis of dementia, you can't wait for assisted dying as you won't get it even if it is leaglised. You have to DYI sadly before you are really ready to go.
    Triss
    21st Sep 2018
    1:14pm
    Surely with the amount of money and research going into Alzheimer’s in 40 years we’re going to cure/prevent/control it.
    musicveg
    21st Sep 2018
    8:18pm
    You can minimize your risk by going on a wholefood, no oil, low fat plant-based diet, staying away from chemicals in your body products and household products, getting exercise for the body and brain.
    OnlyDaughter
    22nd Sep 2018
    12:08am
    I read musicveg's comments with interest. Keep dreaming.....My Mum aged 93 years has dementia. Physically she is brilliant because she has lived on whole foods, no oil, had a very low fat plant-based diet, used no chemical products at all, she is an absolute health nut and she has walked at least 5 kilometres a day for decades. Mentally she absolutely is horrific and has been getting worse over the past ten years. She is an absolute nightmare. She has memory issues, forgetting important things and making things up that never happened. Her brain has shrunk and taken her limbic system with it. She is nasty. She is unreasonable. She has delusions and she has paranoia. Unfortunately I know, firsthand of far too many others like her, over the years mostly all academic women from the sciences from the many years when I worked in a university. In common, they have all been over-the-top health nuts, anti-Pharma types, all very thin, no muscle through low protein - just like my Mum. In contrast I know a few very old women who have lived life to the full and enjoyed every moment. They are overweight, fun loving, love a good wine and they are remarkably sane with sound cognitive abilities. When they die, they will be sorely missed. I cannot say the same for the others. Sorry musicveg, I think there is a great deal more to getting or avoiding dementia than wholesome living.
    musicveg
    22nd Sep 2018
    12:58am
    Yes OnlyDaughter, there is a lot more to it, but it is a start. If you don't get enough calories, and are constantly underweight then you will not get the nutrients you need. Often people say and believe they have been eating healthy all their lives but many do not know how to do it properly. I used to be underweight for many years, was vegetarian and then went vegan, it wasn't until I turned to a wholefood diet that I put on weight and feel so healthy. You also need to take into account that many people have been exposed to toxic chemicals from various sources, whether it is dyeing your hair often, to using hairsprays, deodorants, household cleaners, I could go on, so there is many reasons why you can get a disease whether it is in body or mind. I have read a lot about the use of aluminum too, so using aluminum cooking pots for years can contribute too.Also alcohol contributes to brains cells dying.
    Sorry to hear of your mother, she still has outlived the average age of women.My dad died of dementia too, he was physically in good health too. It is really sad and stressful for families to watch.
    musicveg
    21st Sep 2018
    8:21pm
    Here are many studies that have been done for ways to treat and prevent:
    http://www.greenmedinfo.com/disease/alzheimers-disease


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