22 September, 2011

Mental, physical activity needed to counter Alzheimer

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Experts urged Pakistanis to remain engaged in healthy physical and mental activities to counter threats of Alzheimer disease, as “people who were less active during their leisure time nearly quadrupled their risk of developing the mind-robbing Alzheimer's disease.”

Speaking at a public awareness seminar to mark World Alzheimer’s Day arranged by Shifa International Hospital (SIH), on Wednesday, consultant neurologists insisted the government to establish dementia clinics and nursing homes. The expert panel included Prof. Mohammad Tariq from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences; Dr. Ismail Khatri, Head Neurology Division SIH; Dr. Arsalan Ahmad and Dr. Azhar Saeed, both SIH neurologists. Physicians emphasized on promoting awareness of the disease amongst general public and educating physicians to screen the elderly patients for dementia.

In a pleasant environment, dozens of patients and their family members shared their experiences, social issues and discussed treatments to learn about the disease and combat it through collective efforts and moral support. The informatory discussion was followed by a question-answer session in which the doctors gave detailed answers of patients’ queries.  “I had no idea that my wife's mood swings were symptoms of mental ill-health, but her constant habit of forgetting things or repeating the same things startled me, it was then that I took her to doctor and realized it was Alzheimer” told Kamran, the husband of Farhana Kamran, 56, who is under treatment since two years.


Most people believe that ageing people tend to forget things but “Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of ageing” warned physicians, and hence they need special attention and care. Dr. Arsalan Ahmad informed that “Alzheimer is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” It is the most common cause of dementia among older people.



In Pakistan, there are “approximately 6 million people above 65 years of age are affected with dementia” he said quoting Alzheimer’s disease International (ADI) report. According to World Alzheimer Report, there were 35.6 million people living with dementia worldwide in 2010, with the numbers expected to increase to 65.7 million by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050.


Although current treatments cannot stop the disease from progressing, “but study shows that it can slow the worsening of symptoms and improve the quality of life for both those afflicted with the disease and their caregivers” told Dr. Khatri.


Siraj uddin Ahmed, 77, describing his ailment said that at early stages he used to forget where he has parked his car or got lost in a neighbourhood he had known for decades. “I started my treatment two years back, when the problem started getting worse.”



Describing the symptoms of the Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Ahmad said that “Alzheimer’s disease can affect different people in different ways, but the most common symptom pattern begins with difficulty in remembering new information.” While other severe symptoms include progressive memory loss, behavioural, mood and personality changes, disorientation, confusion about events, time and place, difficulty finding the right words and performing familiar tasks, misplacing things, loss of initiative and poor judgement.


To keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay, experts suggested regular physical exercise, healthy diet including antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetable; mental stimulation by engaging in indoor activities such as solving crossword puzzles, riddles or playing scrabble, chess; stress management and active social life.