In the know: Alzheimer’s disease
- According to neurologist, Dr. Socorro Martinez, and the US National Institute on Aging website, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) results when an abnormal buildup of protein in the brain forms neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques, which appear like clumps in the brain.
- The clumps and the tangles interrupt the synapses between the neurons in the brain. The result is a disruption in the person’s cognitive function. The first to be impaired is the hippocampus, that part of the brain that forms new memories.
- With the neurons disabled from ping-ing each other, people with AD lose the ability to do the most basic functions that we think are reflexive to humans, including breathing. Ultimately, the failure of neurons to connect to each other causes them to atrophy, a degenerative process that causes the brain to shrink.
- Worldwide, an estimated 46.8 million people suffer from dementia, described by Martinez as the “gradual decline in an individual’s total mental function.”
- It means that one not only loses one’s memory but orientation, attention, concentration, abstract thinking and judgment. The last four make up the “executive function” of the brain.
- From 2003-2004, the Philippines had a population of 84 million, 2.9 percent of which were 65 years old and above. Of this figure, 11.9 percent, or 289,884 had dementia.
- From 2003-2007, some 179,000 Filipinos had dementia of varying types, not only AD.
- According to Martinez, Population Commission (PopCom) statistics have indicated that from the 2.9 percent of Filipinos beyond 65 years old almost a decade ago, the elderly population has increased to 4.3 percent of total population from 2014 to 2015.
- By extrapolation, there would be 490,000 Filipinos over 65 who have varying types of dementia, said Martinez, the president of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of the Philippines.
- The doctor quoted the World Health Organization as describing dementia as one of the top 7 “disabling chronic diseases” in the general population.
- Financially, the cost of taking care of a loved one with AD is staggering. In 2015 alone, care for AD-affected patients in the United States reached $818 million, Martinez said, adding that it was expected to hit $1 trillion by 2018.
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