Alzheimer’s, a reality that affects more and more people

    Scientific advances have managed to improve life expectancy of the population, and, with it, a higher incidence of neurodegenerative diseases

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    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for between 60 and 70 percent of dementia cases.  Every September 21, World Alzheimer’s Day is commemorated to raise awareness about this pathology that especially affects older adults.

    It is estimated that by 2050 the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will double in Europe and triple worldwide.  In Costa Rica it is estimated that there are more than a thousand people affected by the disease.

    This disease was described for the first time in 1907 by the German doctor Alois Alzheimer, who was treating a patient who developed memory impairment and symptoms of paranoid delusions.  His autopsy revealed brain atrophy.

    What is the cause of this disease?

     In reality, there are still many unknowns about its etiology.  Advanced age is the main risk factor for developing this disease;  The prevalence increases between 65 and 85 years of age, doubling every 5 years;  Other risk factors have been identified such as genetics, female sex, low educational and cultural level, previous head trauma, high blood pressure, among others.

    The clinical manifestations that occur in a patient with Alzheimer’s are due to alterations in various neurotransmitters synthesized in neuronal cells, mainly acetylcholine, which plays an important role in memory management and the connection of different brain areas to carry out tasks.

    Some data that helps us identify a patient with Alzheimer’s are:

    • Deterioration of recent memory rather than remote memory, that is, the patient often does not remember what he did in the last hour or what he was talking to a while ago.
    • Aphasia, which consists of an alteration of language, verbal influence and word search.
    • Apraxia, which is manifested by the inability to perform tasks that were previously performed without problem.
    • Patients often present with anosognosia, in which the patient does not recognize his or her inability to remember situations, words, or things.

    Is it possible to cure the disease?

     Although significant progress has been made, it is not yet possible to cure it, so its treatment is symptomatic, that is, the symptoms that the patient manifests are treated.  Pharmacological treatment based on inhibitors of the enzyme that degrades acetylcholine to compensate for the relative deficit of the neurotransmitter that exists in these patients.  These types of therapies could slow the progression of the disease.

    Can we prevent the disease?

     Although it is still being studied, preventive measures are proposed to avoid smoking and alcoholism, as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet and regular physical activity.  It is also advisable to promote activities aimed at strengthening memory through memos, crossword puzzles, word searches, sudoku, among others.

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