Speakers say Alzheimer’s is poorly understood
Photo: AFP We know that smoking and tobacco consumption can be bad for health. But did you know it may also lead to Alzheimer's in young people? Ghee, too, has a role to play. Tobacco consumption over time can lead to atherosclerosis—a condition where plaques form in the blood vessels, obstructing the flow of blood. This can lead to the narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the brain, which can cause strokes. These are known as the vascular causes of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “Most of the cases in our country are due to vascular causes such as high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and smoking,” said Dr Mohammad Wasay, professor of neurology at the Aga Khan University. He said vascular causes are more common in our country compared to other countries. Dr Wasay was speaking at an awareness session organised by the Neurology Awareness and Research Foundation (NARF) to mark World Alzheimer's Day on Friday. “Controlling blood pressure and tobacco use will control dementia,” said Dr Abdul Malik, a neurologist and general secretary of NARF. Terming the causes behind Alzheimer’s in Pakistan “unique”, he said we have multiple modes of tobacco consumption not limited to smoking cigarettes, such as chewing pan, gutka and naswar. Dr Malik commented on our high consumption of ghee and foods cooked in unsaturated oils and how they play a role in causing vascular diseases which can then lead to Alzheimer’s, among other cardiovascular diseases. Not just a disease of old age Alzheimer’s as a disease is poorly understood, said the experts. The exact causes are difficult to pinpoint, but generally vitamin B12 deficiency, high blood pressure, diabetes, long-term sleep deprivation and lack of a healthy lifestyle are considered to contribute to the cognitive decline of the human brain, they added. “It is usually mistaken as a sign of old age, however, it is a serious life-reducing disease related to the brain,” said Dr Wasay. Dementia isn’t synonymous with ageing, he said, advising people to stop labelling it as senility. The experts said though the disease isn't treatable, it is possible to delay its progression from mild to severe for up to 15 years. Through medication, a person with Alzheimer’s can live a dignified, relatively normal life. This is why medicines should be subsidised for senior citizens, said Wasay, as the cost of Alzheimer’s drugs can go up to Rs10,000 per month and those in need of them are usually retired. Around 0.5 million people in Pakistan are suffering from Alzheimer’s. As the ageing population increases, so does the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s. There is a need to create awareness of the disease and devise laws for old age before legal issues start arising as a result of the disease. Follow SAMAA English on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.