Did you know that every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia? 

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), dementia affects 50 million people worldwide, with a new case of the syndrome occurring somewhere in the world every three seconds.

ALZHEIMER'S MONTHWhile awareness of dementia has risen in the past decade, more knowledge and understanding of the condition, and its underlying diseases is needed.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often used interchangeably to describe several symptoms and issues related to brain health and functioning. However, Alzheimer’s is a specific disease, whereas dementia describes a group of symptoms associated with the decline in memory, reasoning or other thinking skills.

Individuals with dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease experience multiple symptoms that change over the years, reflecting the degree of damage to nerve cells in different parts of the brain. The pace at which symptoms advance differs from person to person.

It is estimated that nearly half of all people 85 years or older have a type of dementia. But did you know that dementia, or severe memory loss that interferes with daily life, is not part of the normal aging process?

Dr Essa Al Sulaiti, Medical Director of Home Health Care Services at HMC and Deputy National Lead of Healthy Ageing, explained that every case of Alzheimer’s-related dementia is unique to the individual experiencing it. While individuals with the disease exhibit a general loss of memory and cognitive thinking, additional symptoms include changes in mood and/or behaviour, disorientation and general confusion.

The gradual loss of the ability to speak or hold conversations can be a source of agitation for the person with Alzheimer’s and their family.

Physiological symptoms can include difficulty walking or swallowing. The worsening of all symptoms over time can result in the inability to participate in activities, including personal care and the normal requirements of daily life. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may not recognise familiar people, places or things, which can be very distressing to families.

There are several risk factors and causes of dementia, including specific events like a stroke or heart attack, as well as genetic mutations or infections. Although some risk factors, such as age or genes, cannot be changed, other lifestyle-related changes can help reduce risk factors of dementia.

Although research is ongoing, evidence suggests that people can reduce the risk of dementia by making key healthy lifestyle changes, including participating in regular physical and mental activity, reducing high blood pressure, not smoking, and maintaining good heart health.

Dr Al Sulaiti said that though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, early diagnosis can ensure prompt treatment of symptoms. Medications for behavioural changes, memory loss and depression and related remedies that aim to increase functionality within the brain can be effective treatments.

Treatment is aimed predominantly at increasing the quality of life of the patient and can be very helpful to the primary caregiver.

Anyone seeking advice related to Alzheimer’s disease or memory loss can contact the National Alzheimer’s and Memory Services Helpline (RAHA) at 4026 2222 between 8 am and 3 pm, Sunday to Thursday. The service is provided by a dedicated multi-disciplinary team, including specialist dementia nurses, geriatricians, and geriatric psychiatrists and psychologists, all of whom are committed to providing compassionate and confidential care for patients and their families.

This year Hamad Medical Corporation is supporting World Alzheimer’s Month with a series of public awareness events throughout September. All events underpin the global campaign theme of ‘Let’s Talk About Dementia’.

World Alzheimer’s Month is the international campaign held every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. The campaign was launched in 2012 by ADI, which designated 21 September as World Alzheimer’s Day.