Dubai, UAE: If you have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, a family member who has had Alzheimer’s — a progressive degenerative brain disorder that causes problems in memory, thinking and behaviour — then you are a likely candidate to have Alzheimer’s regardless of whether you’re young or old.
“There are growing studies that show that even at a young age of 30, a person can get Alzheimer’s. The latest case I’ve read is 18 years old. Anybody can get it regardless of age. Alzheimer’s is not endemic to a particular gender or religion or race, it can happen to anybody, anywhere, any time,” Desiree Vlekken, founder and CEO of Forget-Me-Not.org, told Gulf News while marking Remember World Alzheimer’s Day on Saturday. The group is a non-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness on Alzheimer’s and offers a support system to people who have the condition.
Held annually on September 21, the Remember World Alzheimer’s Day was held on Saturday at the Dubai Mall. The awareness campaign, held under the patronage of the Ministry of Social Affairs, will run for three days at the mall to provide the public expert advice on how to detect and treat Alzheimer’s.
Based on a 2012 World Bank report, an estimated 0.5 per cent of the UAE’s population or about 29,000 people are potential candidates for Alzheimer’s. This number is expected to eventually increase as even people as young as 30 are being reported to have early-onset Alzheimer’s.
With the absence of official statistics on Alzheimer’s in the UAE, Vlekken said it is difficult to pinpoint the youngest Alzheimer’s patient in the country. The problem is complicated by the social stigma associated with having the condition.
“There’s a social stigma on Alzheimer’s. It’s difficult to identify people who have it as many try to dismiss it as a physical problem rather than a neurological problem. Some people don’t know that they have it,” Vlekken said. “We have to talk about it more [to tell people] that there’s no shame in having Alzheimer’s. There’s help available, there are support and medical systems available,” she said.
Early detection can only be done if the person pays attention to warning signs.
“Early detection can create an obvious benefit not only for the individual but also for the family. With early detection, we may be able to delay the symptoms from moving into moderate stage or late stage and you can also possibly prevent it in some cases,” Dr Raymond Hamden, clinical and forensic psychologist with the Human Relations Institute and Clinics in Dubai, told Gulf News.
Dr Hamden said through a healthy lifestyle, proper diet, regular physical and mental exercise, people who are at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s can delay its symptoms.
© Gulf NewsSep 2013