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An unspoken pandemic: With 11%, J&K has highest prevalence of dementia in country


Srinagar: After retiring, 72-year-old Aijaz Ahmad (name changed) had to deal with an abrupt change in his life.

“He used to spend his post-retirement days doing nothing. He was becoming aggressive every day. We were concerned about his well-being. At first, we thought it was the effect of his retirement, but later, things got worse,” said his relative.

 Aijaz started to forget things, which indicated that there was a problem. “He would first forget small things, and then it would get worse to the point where he would forget things that he had done only moments before. He did not remember to have breakfast or lunch. After noticing this, the family thought he was depressed and sought the advice of a psychiatrist,” the relative said.

The doctor recommended an MRI of his brain after learning about his symptoms, and that’s how he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “Although it was now irreversible, doctors urged us to keep him busy with activities both inside and outside the house in addition to the therapy to prevent it from getting worse,” the relative said.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. It typically strikes people over 60. It is characterized by the death of brain neurocells. The medication and therapy prevent the disease from getting worse.

Aijaz is just the tip of the iceberg. Alzheimer’s disease is rife in Kashmir, with the majority of instances occurring in elderly people.

According to the study ‘Deep phenotyping and genomic data from a nationally representative study on dementia in India’, the prevalence of dementia among the elderly population in J&K is the highest in the country at 11 percent against the national average of 7.4 percent.

Fatima (name changed), 75, is also having difficulties in her day-to-day existence since she is forgetting routine events. “Regarding day-to-day tasks, she is capable of completing household chores, but she struggles to remember her family member’s names,”  said her doctor.

A further instance Suhail (name changed), a 70-year-old retired employee who was in good health when he was in service, is dealing with the same issues in his life. “He can’t remember the routes while he’s outside and he couldn’t remember where he wants to go when people ask,” said his doctor.

  “Suhail and Fatima’s situation worsened since they delayed seeking treatment when they first started showing symptoms. Their family ignored it, believing it to be a result of their advancing years, which allowed the issue to worsen daily. If they had sought treatment at an earlier point, their current state of affairs would not have been as problematic,” said their doctor.

Dr. Abrar, Consultant Psychiatrist at IMHANS told the Kashmir Monitor that compared to other states, Kashmir has a higher number of patients with this illness. He advised people that early symptoms should not be ignored since they may eventually lead to a serious issue. He also said that because the patient has a medical problem, their family members should treat them with extreme patience. “The family takes the early symptoms lightly thinking it happens in old age and then consults the doctor when water is above the head,” he said.

 Dr. Nawaz Sheikh, a Neurologist at Government Medical College, Anantnag, told The Kashmir Monitor that the cases of Alzheimer’s disease in Kashmir are increasing day by day. He said that the disease can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress and inactivity. He claimed that not maintaining a good lifestyle increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in people.

Dr. Nawaz advised people not to overthink and keep themselves busy with some activities. “It usually happens due to stress and no physical activity. People need to maintain a good lifestyle by not overthinking and putting themselves in unnecessary stress. They should keep themselves busy with any activity or work,” he said.

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Avatar of Minzah Mehraj

Minzah Mehraj

Minzah Mehraj is a journalist based in Srinagar, Kashmir, and has covered health, education, business, and culture stories over the past 3 years. She holds a Masters and Honours Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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