Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder characterised by a gradual decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.
In India, the prevalence of dementia (the umbrella term for various brain disorders), which includes Alzheimer’s, is significant.
As of 2023, it is estimated that about 7.4 per cent of adults over the age of 60, approximately 8.8 million Indians, are living with brain disorders. A pan-India study revealed that it is also associated with the rapid rise in risk factors like cardiovascular diseases.
This data underscores the importance of raising awareness about the early signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
On World Alzheimer’s Day, it is important to recognise the early signs of this debilitating disease for crucial timely intervention and management.
One of the most common early symptoms of Alzheimer’s is memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as forgetting recently learned information or important dates and events.
This is often accompanied by challenges in planning or solving problems, which may manifest as difficulty following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
Dr Neeraj Balaini, Consultant in Neurology, Aster RV Hospital, told IndiaToday.in that another warning sign is the the difficulty to complete a familiar task, like not being able to navigate your way to the grocery store and back home.
There could be a speech difficulty as well. “You may have trouble following or joining a conversation. You could stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue,” said Dr Neeraj Balaini.
Another warning sign if misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace your steps.
“For example, if someone loses his car keys, he will think that I went to my friend’s place, I must have kept them there and will look for the key in that way. But people with Alzheimer’s lose this ability to retrace steps and they may even accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses,” said Dr Balaini.
Another early symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementia diseases is experiencing mood and personality changes.
As per the expert, people can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious, and be easily upset even at home, with friends or when out of their comfort zone.
“People living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may forget where they are and how they got here even after telling them they may not recollect,” Dr Balaini shared another warning sign.
“Certain rare genetic mutations, such as those in the APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 genes, can directly cause early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. These mutations are responsible for a small percentage of Alzheimer’s cases,” said Dr Jayendra Yadav.
Benefits of meditation and walking on Alzheimer’s
Dr Prakriti Poddar, Global Head of RoundGlass, told IndiaToday.in that when it comes to incorporating mindfulness in your routine, research shows that adopting the practice of Kirtan Kriya for just 12 minutes a day can enhance cognition and activate parts of the brain that are central to memory.
Kirtan Kriya is a practice intended to stimulate the senses and parts of the brain using a combination of chanting and finger movements.
“Through meditation, we engage vital parts of the brain and aid in the formation of new neural connections,” she mentioned.
Besides this, moderately paced walks trigger the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a vital protein supporting the survival of existing brain neurons and the generation of new ones.