On September 21st, the world quietly observes World Alzheimer’s Day. It’s a day dedicated to a cause that dwells in the shadows of public awareness.
According to the Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Society of India (ARDSI), an astounding 4 million individuals in India grapple with Alzheimer’s. Yet only a mere 10% of them get diagnosed. This startling statistic demands our attention.
This Alzheimer’s Day, let’s take a stand to break this silence, raise awareness, and confront this crisis head-on. Keep reading to uncover the crucial details!
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
This disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. It is the most common cause of dementia. However, it is not a normal part of ageing.
Yet, most people think otherwise and do not seek the help they need. Various other reasons for the growing cases of the disease in India are:
- The symptoms can be similar to other conditions, such as dementia or depression. In turn, it may confuse individuals.
- There is also a lot of stigma associated with Alzheimer’s. Many people are afraid to be diagnosed and thus delay seeking medical help.
Surprisingly, climate change is also a hidden reason behind its impact. The evidence of the same includes:
- Increased heat stress: It can damage brain cells and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. Thus, as global temperatures rise, the risk of Alzheimer’s also increases.
- Changes in precipitation patterns: This can lead to flooding and drought, both of which can harm brain health.
- Vector-borne diseases: Climate change increases the spread of malaria and lyme. These diseases can damage the brain and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Migration: Climate change has displaced millions of people. Those who moved from their homes are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression. All of which are risk factors for the disease.
The peaking causes of the disease have led to a rise in research and human rights discussions as well. Let’s learn more about these.
Evidence on Alzheimer’s disease research
There are several new studies on the research. Here are a few of the most recent findings:
- A study published in Science Daily on September 2023 found that a subset of CD8+ T cells in the brain can limit the effects of Alzheimer’s. These cells are known as Cytotoxic T-cells. They can kill cancer cells, cells that are infected by viruses or bacteria, or cells that are damaged in any other way. Thus, targeting these T cells could be a potential new treatment for the disease.
- In a different study from July 2023, scientists found that Gantenerumab can help reduce abnormalities in the brain. Gantenerumab is a medication that cleans up the brain to keep memories and thinking abilities sharp for as long as possible. These abnormalities or clumps are a key sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, this could be a promising way to slow down the disease.
- A third study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia in June 2023, found that a combination of exercise and brain training can slow the progression of the disease. Suggesting that lifestyle improvements may be an effective way to prevent or delay the onset.
Other promising research areas include – gene therapy, stem cell therapy, immunotherapy, etc. The field is constantly evolving, and there is hope that new cures will emerge soon.
Human rights perspective on Alzheimer’s
The human rights perspective of the disease is on the basis of the principle that –
“People with Alzheimer’s disease have the same rights as everyone else, regardless of their condition.”
These rights include the right to:
|Life||Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights||They have the right to live as long as possible and to receive the care they need.|
|Liberty and security of person||Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||They should be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. They can also make their decisions about their care as long as possible.|
|Respect for privacy||Article 17 of the CRPD||They have the right to privacy and confidentiality. Their personal information should not be shared without consent.|
|Non-discrimination||Article 5 of the CRPD||They should not be discriminated based on their condition. They should have the same access to services and opportunities as everyone else.|
|Accessibility||Article 9 of the CRPD||They should have access to services and facilities that are accessible to them. It includes transportation, buildings, and information.|
|Participation in society||Article 29 of the CRPD||They should be able to participate in society as much as possible. They should have the opportunity to work, socialize, and contribute to their communities.|
The human rights perspective is crucial as it ensures that people with Alzheimer’s get dignity and respect. It also ensures they receive the support they need to live a good life.
As we observe World Alzheimer’s Day, it’s crucial to recognise Alzheimer’s as a growing crisis in India. Timely diagnosis, research advancements, and human rights considerations should guide our efforts to address this challenge.
Additionally, acknowledging the potential impact of climate change is essential. It underscores the connection between health and the environment in our pursuit of a healthier world.
Akanksha is a freelance content writer. Her focus areas are mental health and wellbeing, gender, and sustainability.
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