Alzheimer’s awareness month and the diseases prevalence in Jordan

Alzheimer’s effect on the brain (bottom), compared to that of a normal brain (top) (Photo: Molecular Neurodegeneration’s website)

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Since 2012, World Alzheimer’s Month has been observed in September. This month aims to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.اضافة اعلان

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that typically appears in individuals after the age of 60. Alzheimer’s causes a broader umbrella of symptoms, dementia being one of the most prominent.

The disease’s symptoms detriment health as they progress, eventually affecting behavior, speech, and motor function — dementia results in a decline in cognitive mental tasks such as memory and reasoning. Alzheimer’s is the most significant cause of dementia, estimated to be responsible for 60–80 percent of all dementia cases.

Jordan is no stranger to the prevalence of Alzheimer’s amongst its people. One study published earlier this year found that dementia has an annual prevalence rate of 1.29 percent in individuals over the age of 65 in Jordan. Of those individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s was responsible for 73.8 percent of the cases, and men were disproportionally affected by 70.4 percent.

What does Alzheimer’s look like in the brain?

The human brain is responsible for the vast majority of functions in the human body. From movement to speech, spatial awareness to memory, the brain is responsible for storing and relaying within the body and outside of it.

In individuals with Alzheimer’s, damage to the brain is present years before the onset of symptoms. Alzheimer’s is identified by abnormal protein deposition forming plaques and tangles between neurons, which disrupts cell function. This deposition ultimately results in the atrophy, or cell death, of the brain cells resulting in the overall shrinking of the brain.

Although macroscopic evaluation of the brain is not conclusive for diagnosis and microscopic analysis is needed, specialists can diagnose Alzheimer’s with 90 percent accuracy in living patients through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography scans (CT scans).

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Some symptoms of Alzheimer’s overlap with those caused by dementia, such as a noted decline in the ability to think and memory and communication impairment; symptoms more specific to Alzheimer’s include difficulty in remembering recent events, a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern (apathy), depression, impaired judgment, confusion and disorientation, behavioral changes, mood swings, and in advanced stages, difficulty speaking, swallowing, or walking.

As of now, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, there are treatments to help manage symptoms through medication which aids in alleviating behavioral changes, sleeping difficulties, and depression.

Risk factors

Although research behind understanding Alzheimer’s is still relatively recent and developing, certain risk factors have been established. Unfortunately, most of these factors are non-preventable.

Age is a predominant risk factor for Alzheimer’s, typically for those over 60–65. Gender also plays a role as men are inherently predisposed to Alzheimer’s. Additionally, a present family history of dementia increases the risk of an individual developing Alzheimer’s later in life. Evidence has also shown that illiteracy is another risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Other risk factors include adult hearing loss, untreated depression, social isolation, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Preventative measures

The human brain can be compared to a muscle because it requires active stimulus and exercise to stay healthy. This can take the form of reading, learning new languages, or playing musical instruments.

Certain interactive games have also been found to help improve cognition over a short period of time, although their long-term effects have not yet been studied. Generally speaking, participation in the community and introspective growth may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Additionally, health professionals say that a healthy body is a healthy mind, which holds true in the case of Alzheimer’s. Cardiovascular diseases have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Taking preventative measures by improving your cardiovascular health can ultimately reduce risk. Exercising, quitting smoking, and regulating your blood pressure are all helpful in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

How can you help someone with Alzheimer’s?

Education is the first step in helping someone with Alzheimer’s. Learning about the impacts of Alzheimer’s helps develop a level of empathy and understanding as the disease progresses.

Patience is one of the most crucial ways to help. Although Alzheimer’s affects the loved ones of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is essential to remember that it impacts the individual far more.

Al-Oun for Alzheimer’s Patient Care Association is an organization based in Amman. It was founded in 2020, and it aims to provide services such as caregiver meetings, educational events, an active helpline, support groups, and more to assist those impacted by Alzheimer’s.

The association has been particularly active on their Facebook page this month by posting informational info graphics on Alzheimer’s to help spread awareness.