On September 21, World Alzheimer's Day is celebrated, proclaimed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and sponsored by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI). Alzheimer's affects more than 30% of people over the age of 90.
On world Alzheimer's day, the Dénia Hospital launches a campaign to inform and raise awareness about the disease, prevention measures and the importance of an early diagnosis.
Alzheimer's affects more than 30% of people over the age of 90. It is the leading cause of dementia and its incidence and prevalence is increasing. Currently, in Spain there are approximately 600.000 cases of people with Alzheimer's and it is estimated that in the year 2050 there will be more than 1.000.000. The increase in cases is so notorious that the Dénia Hospital has a specific weekly consultation to treat neurodegenerative dementias.
According to the Head of Neurology of the Hospital de Dénia, Dr. Alejandro García, the main reasons why Alzheimer's disease is becoming more frequent are related to the greater life expectancy of the population, a better follow-up of this type of patients and the advances in diagnostic tests that have been experienced in recent years.
It is a disease associated with age and other genetic, environmental and risk factors, such as: diabetes, being overweight, tobacco, alcohol and a low cultural level.
Dr. García points out the importance of an early diagnosis to start the necessary therapeutic processes for the affected people. Likewise, he insists that the best way to prevent the disease is to lead a healthy lifestyle and prevent risk factors associated with cardiovascular health. For this he recommends:
Physical exercise: go for a walk, bike, swim, yoga or any other sport, preferably outdoors.
Cognitive stimulation: read, write, do hobbies and even watch television to have a cognitive reserve.
Avoid modifiable risk factors: obesity, tobacco or alcohol consumption and the control of chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.
Balanced and healthy diet rich in healthy fatty acids such as omega 3 or those that come from olive oil.
Advances in relation to Alzheimer's
Although much progress has been made in diagnosis, treatment remains very similar to that of approximately 15 years ago. Currently, it is even possible to diagnose cases of patients who still do not have symptoms, through some tests such as lumbar puncture or nuclear medicine. However, at present, there is no treatment available that can stop cognitive decline.
However, there are numerous investigations aimed at finding out how to eliminate beta-amyloid protein in the brain of patients who are in the initial stage of the disease. Since it has been shown that this substance is deposited in large quantities in the brain of people with Alzheimer's. To date, the results of clinical drug trials are inconclusive. Although some drugs have succeeded in dissolving the amyloid protein, they have not been able to stop the progression of the disease and its symptoms.
In the Valencian Community
The Ministry of Universal Health and Public Health has registered this year (until August 31) 4.828 new cases of Alzheimer's in the Valencian Community, of which 1.709 are men and 3.119 women. The data are released on the occasion of the commemoration, every September 21, of World Alzheimer's Day. Health diagnoses an average of 20 new cases of Alzheimer's every day.
Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease that affects memory and behavior and which, at the moment, suffers in the Valencian Community at least 34.782 people, of which 24.340 are women and 10.442 men, in a proportion of 7 women for every 3 males approximately. Regarding age, the majority of new patients are over 65 years of age, but there are around 10% of cases of early onset.
In this sense, "the appearance of Alzheimer's disease in people who are in the prime of their socio-labor and family life produces a greater impact if possible", has indicated the neurologist in charge of the Cognitive Disorders Unit of the Hospital Universitari i Politècnic The Faith, Miquel Baquero.
"Even when Alzheimer's disease initially manifests as memory loss, some cases may present behavioral changes, language disorders, sensory recognition problems, or changes in personal performance as the first symptoms. These other symptoms, in addition to failure of memory, they are comparatively more frequent in the initial stages in early cases ", added Baquero.
In addition, continues the head of the Cognitive Disorders Unit of the Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe, it is frequent that people who develop symptoms of the disease do not recognize the loss of capacities that it produces and that, even admitting it, they refuse to go to the doctor, being its environment the one that promotes the consultation.
"Taking into account that the loss of cognitive abilities does not always indicate that there is an Alzheimer's disease, currently there are diagnostic means to recognize or rule out the existence of this disease from its first symptoms with complete reliability and safety, which is especially useful in these early cases ".
"Early diagnosis allows directing from the beginning to the appropriate treatment that can favor the evolution both in the short and in the medium and long term," he indicated.
Early diagnosis also eliminates uncertainties and, counting on the sick person himself, allows assuming the necessary changes to adapt to foreseeable future needs and finding the therapeutic and economic resources of his own and those of others for the future, in addition to preventing behavioral complications.
Secondarily, it also makes it possible to develop medical and health research and contributes to the emergence of resources for a community approach to the effects of the disease.
In this sense, the family grouping of cases that is common to see in Alzheimer's disease is due to a genetic risk factor or genetic susceptibility that is quite common in the population, the presence of the e4 allele of apoprotein E, which, being present in approximately 20% of the population is seen in approximately 50% of Alzheimer's disease cases.
Finally, the data on the health activity of patients with Alzheimer's available to the General Directorate of Health Care reveal that, so far in 2021, 67.120 consultations have been attended in health centers related to the pathology. By provinces, 7.588 assistances in Primary Care in the province of Castellón; 35.477 in Valencia and the remaining 24.055 in Alicante.