The global community is once again coming together this September to observe World Alzheimer’s Month, dedicated to raising awareness, challenging stigma and advocating for support and research in support of people living with dementia.
This year’s theme is ‘never too early, never too late’, which highlights the importance of addressing the risk factors for dementia at any stage in adult life.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, causing memory loss, cognitive decline and a significant impact on daily life.
With an ageing global population, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is steadily rising, making it a critical public health concern, particularly since the global number of people living with dementia is expected to triple by 2050. World Alzheimer’s Month serves as a platform to shed light on this issue and work towards a brighter future for those afflicted, including their family and carers.
Dr Hanadi Al-Hamad, Deputy Chief for Long-Term Care, Rehabilitation and Geriatric Care and the National Lead for Healthy Ageing in Qatar, explained the importance of focusing on the risk factors and risk reduction.
She said that while there has been a huge transformation in dementia perception and care over the last decade, it is hugely important for us to better understand and respond to the risk factors associated with this condition, many are considered to be modifiable risk factors or lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, unaddressed hearing loss, lack of physical activity, or unmanaged depression.
She added that adopting a healthy lifestyle will promote overall good health, including brain health.
There are 12 risk factors that have been widely promoted as having a significant impact on the possibility of whether a person may develop dementia. See below:
This year’s World Alzheimer’s Month theme of ‘never too early, never too late’ highlights the key role of identifying risk factors and adopting proactive risk reduction measures to delay, and potentially even prevent, the onset of dementia.
According to Dr Al-Hamad, they are delighted to arrange activities this month to educate the public as well as deliver specialised training to healthcare staff in understanding the signs and symptoms of dementia and encourage a better understanding of the modifiable risk factors linked to lifestyle.
Services such as the free and confidential RAHA Alzheimer’s and Memory Services Helpline have been immensely valuable in providing faster access to care and helping to relieve some of the stress that caregivers can feel as the illness progresses and the symptoms of the person they care for worsen over time.
The Memory Clinic, which was first set up in Rumailah Hospital, now also provides clinics in several Primary Care Health Centers, and provides a specialised service to diagnose memory loss and cognitive decline and advise on suitable treatment options.
Qatar’s Alzheimer’s awareness campaign
This year’s Alzheimer’s awareness campaign in Qatar is held under the banner of the WHO Collaborating Center for Healthy Ageing and Dementia, a joint programme between the World Health Organization and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) dedicated to the development and strengthening of national and regional institutional capacity and enhancing the scientific validity of its global health work in the field of healthy ageing and dementia care and services.
Dr Al-Hamad, who also heads the collaborating centre, explained that the centre provides an important platform to facilitate knowledge and research on healthy ageing, including the importance of integrated care and preventative health literacy promotion as well as improvements in dementia care.
Although age increases risk, dementia is not a normal part of ageing. Genetics play a role in the likelihood of getting one form of dementia over another, but dementia can affect anyone and increasing evidence shows that modifiable risk factors can reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life, especially if addressed earlier.
Typical experiences of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- General loss of memory and cognitive thinking
- Changes (sometimes sudden) in mood and/or behaviour
- Disorientation and general confusion
- Loss of ability to speak or hold conversations
- Difficulty walking or swallowing
- Inability to recognise people, places, and/or time
- Inability to participate in activities, including personal care and the requirements of daily life
There is no cure for dementia presently and symptoms are likely to worsen over time. However, early diagnosis and professional intervention can help.
For updates and more information about HMC’s healthy ageing programme, visit hamad.qa.
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