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World Alzheimer's Day: Three million dementia patients in Germany by 2050
Around 1.4 million people in Germany currently suffer from dementia. About every third person over 90 is affected. Experts expect twice as many dementia patients by 2050, provided that it is still not possible to develop a promising therapy. Experts say that it is easier to send a person to the moon than to find an active ingredient. Due to the high maintenance effort, dementia is one of the most expensive diseases, the costs of which will continue to rise in the future.
Around 300,000 new diagnoses for dementia or Alzheimer's every year Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative dementia disease. Alzheimer's patients suffer from dementia, but not everyone with dementia is also affected by Alzheimer's. Neuropsychological tests and imaging methods such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can be used to detect deposits typical of Alzheimer's in the brain, can be used to diagnose the type of dementia that is afflicted with the patient.
Alzheimer's disease is a gradual illness. First of all, the patient is noticeable in everyday forgetfulness. Many affected people ask the same question again and again, misplace objects, forget how to perform everyday tasks, are partially disoriented and neglect their appearance. In the advanced stage, even close family members become strangers to those affected. They simply no longer recognize children, grandchildren, siblings and friends.
However, according to experts, Alzheimer's begins to deposit so-called senile plaques and neurofibrils in the brain of those affected many years before the first clinical symptoms appear. "The disease already appears to be present in people's brains - 15 years before the first symptoms appear," explains Eric Karran of the British organization "Alzheimer's Research UK".
The protein deposits on the plaques consist primarily of incorrectly folded beta-amyloid (Aβ) peptides. In addition, the disease is characterized by neurofibrils, which are deposited as clumps in the neurons. Alzheimer's disease is one of the so-called tauopathies because defective tau proteins migrate out of the cell body and attach to the axons. They limit the cells to the point of incapacity because the tau proteins cannot return to the cell body. Ultimately, the deposits cause the neurons to die, which leads to a decrease in brain mass. In addition, the messenger substance acetylcholine is not produced in sufficient quantities, so that brain performance generally decreases. Despite intensive researchers, the exact causes and mechanisms of the neurodegenerative disease are not yet known. The appropriate diagnosis can usually only be made when the brain cells are irretrievably damaged.
World Alzheimer's Day has the motto "Dementia: Living Together" There are currently around 1.4 million people in Germany who suffer from some form of dementia. About 900,000, two thirds of those affected, suffer from Alzheimer's. Heike von Lützau-Hohlbein, chairwoman of the German Alzheimer Society, speaks of "terrifying numbers". The biggest risk factor for the disease is age. Two thirds of the sufferers are over 80 years old. Almost 70 percent of those affected are women. In some cases there appears to be a genetic disposition.
The international World Alzheimer's Day takes place on Friday. Doctors and associations take the opportunity to draw attention to the disease again. Events and campaigns take place in many countries under the motto "Dementia: Living Together". “With this we want to make it clear that cooperation is important. It is important to hear the needs and wishes of people with dementia and to take account of the relatives' experience, because this is the only way to provide individual care. Affected and relatives benefit from good advice and the knowledge of the experts. The medical, nursing and therapy professionals in particular should exchange ideas and work together, ”explains the chairwoman of the German Alzheimer's Association.
Doctors worldwide are feverishly looking for a method for the early detection of Alzheimer's. Because early diagnosis could at least delay the disease. For example, the so-called PET process, which is used in the University Hospital Leipzig, is suitable for this. This method can be used to visualize the plaque deposits typical of Alzheimer's in the brain. According to the nuclear medicine doctor Osama Sabri, the procedure could help "to diagnose Alzheimer's earlier and with greater certainty."
No successful treatment for dementia and Alzheimer's so far “So far, there is no drug that can cure Alzheimer's disease. When and whether such a medicine will be available at all cannot be predicted, ”reports Professor Isabella Heuser, director of the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Charité Berlin and board member of the Hirnliga e.V. Despite promising approaches, there are always setbacks. "Research is moving forward intensively and there are promising results, but also sobering effects, for example the euphoria about a cause-related treatment that is soon available has evaporated. As researchers, we can only recommend time and time again to use all of the existing prevention and treatment options. With an early diagnosis and early start of therapy, it is possible to positively influence the course of Alzheimer's disease. "
Just a few weeks ago, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson stopped developing a possible new drug for Alzheimer's, as it had proven to be insufficiently effective in numerous tests.
Due to the unsatisfactory therapy situation, experts advise against the progressive decrease in mental performance through behavioral, music or memory therapies, intellectual and sporting activity as well as a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Scientists at the University of Ulm recently discovered a significantly reduced concentration of vitamin C and beta-carotene in the blood of people with dementia.
Are dementia patients not treated appropriately in Germany? Professor Hans Gutzmann, President of the German Age Psychiatrists, answers this question with a clear “yes!”. For an adequate care of those affected, medication, non-drug therapies and nursing measures should be used in an overall therapeutic concept, according to the German Alzheimer Society. The therapies would slow down the disease so that those affected can live longer and in dignity for longer. This also reduced the cost of accommodation in the nursing home, which could be done at a later date.
"The coexistence of health and long-term care insurance funds in Germany means that dementia sufferers are not adequately treated in Germany, measured by international standards," reports Gutzmann. "As long as politics regards Alzheimer's disease as a nursing problem and does not recognize the opportunities that medical treatment offers, the separation between health and long-term care insurance will remain. From a business point of view, it does not make sense for a health insurance company to pay for treatment whose benefits - due to the need for long-term care - the long-term care insurance company. That is why the medically necessary and economically sensible remains undone. ”(Ag)
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Image: Gerd Altmann, Pixelio