With a new blood test topredict Alzheimer’s, we look at alternative therapy, brain food and awareness in the city
It usually starts with the little things: a forgotten name here or a confused date there. What is often written off as bad memory could be a symptom of something darker: Alzheimer’s disease. “Alzheimer’s usually develops in people over the age of 60 (for an unfortunate few, even in their 40s and 50s). The frequency increases with age—so the longer you live, the more likely you are to get it. And with the population of the elderly in India set to hit 250 million by 2025, there will be a boom in the disease,” says Dr E S Krishnamoorthy, a leader in neuropsychiatry.
With dementia (Alzheimer’s is its most common form) affecting over 3.7 million people in the country, it’s something we can’t ignore. And helping people find out if Alzheimer’s is in their future (over 80 per cent of incidence is not genetic) are the scientists at Washington DC’s Georgetown University. They recently developed a blood test that can predict if a healthy person will develop the disease in the next few years—with almost 90 per cent accuracy. The question is, do we really want to find out?
While there is no cure yet, drugs that increase the production of acetylcholine (a chemical important for memory) and inhibit the rate at which it is broken down are being used to delay its progress. “Cognitive behavioural therapy—using exercise, calculations, songs, dance, brain games—is also a powerful tool,” says Dr Deepak Arjundas, a leading neurologist in Chennai. Something similar is followed at Dr Krishnamoorthy’s organisation, Trimed Therapy. “We combine ayurveda, yoga, reflexology, physiotherapy, counselling and psychological therapy, nutrition, acupressure and naturopathy to help our patients,” he says, adding that this has dramatically improved his patients’ quality of life.
While urban Chennaiites are quite aware of the disease, information hasn’t penetrated to the lower strata much. Dr Krishnamoorthy, who conducts free awareness workshops, hopes these will have a trickle down effect.
Details: neurokrish.com, trimedtherapy.com
—Surya Praphulla Kumar