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January 2024: Raising Awareness for Alzheimer’s

Navigating a dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming. Connect with your local Alzheimer Society – your First Link to programs and services that will help build a community of support for you and your loved ones.

Knowing the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia is vital if you are caring for an older person. Finding your keys in the refrigerator is often an indicator of fatigue or absent-mindedness, but it can also be a hint that you need to take measures to preserve your health.

Half a million people in Canada have Alzheimer’s disease, and we expect that number to double in the next 10 years. As this condition becomes more common, awareness of Alzheimer’s disease is critical to early detection, fostering a more compassionate society, promoting research, and improving care and support services for affected people. 1

Every year, the Alzheimer Society, leads Alzheimer’s awareness month. Starting January the first, the Alzheimer Society will join up with groups across the world to put a spotlight on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The Alzheimer Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support, education, and advocacy for people living with dementia, and their families and caregivers. 1

Navigating a dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming. Connect with your local Alzheimer Society – your First Link to programs and services that will help build a community of support for you and your loved ones.

First Link®

This year’s campaign theme is the First Link® program. As its name suggests, the Alzheimer Society is the first resource to use when diagnosed with dementia. It provides patients and their families with essential services, education about the condition, and emotional support. 1

Services are individualized based on a person’s location. Experts explain health care options in the patient’s province of residence and connect them with local health care providers. 1

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?

The most common warning signs for dementia are 

  • memory loss, forgetfulness;
  • loss of ability to concentrate;
  • loss of practical skills (dressing, tying shoelaces, making coffee, etc.);
  • disorientation to time and place;
  • impairment of cognitive functions;
  • lack of interpretation of perceived information);
  • speech impairment slurred speech;
  • apathy (lack of interest in life, loss of interest in previous hobbies and favourite activities);
  • problems in self-care and communication with other people. 2

Is There a Cure?

No medicine can reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, Health Canada approved several medications that slow the advancement of the disease and manage symptoms.

The two main treatment groups are:

Cholinesterase inhibitors (ex.: Donepezil, Galantamine). They prevent the destruction of acetylcholine, a chemical associated with learning, memory, and attention. 

NMDA receptor antagonist (ex.: Memantine). This type of medication reduces glutamate levels, which, when in excess, damages brain cells. 3

What Can I Do To Reduce My Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s?

Research suggests that staying active, exercise, resistance training, socializing and brain training can slow the onset of dementia. Brain training doesn’t mean doing repetitive online tasks, just like a muscle, the more you use your brain the healthier it will be. Listen to music, do puzzles, take part in hobbies. Even sniffing out complex smells can help your brain stay on top of things. Keeping good company and chatting to friends and family can keep your mind active—so stay social.

2023 Alzheimer’s News

New Drugs

In 2023, two drugs from a new class of treatment were in the headlines. Medications of this class remove amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

In January, the FDA approved lekanemab (Lekembi) for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Lekanemab reduces cognitive decline, but its clinical significance is controversial. 4 It slows the progression of cognitive decline by 27% in the very early stages of dementia. Doctors are unsure whether this is significant enough to justify the yearly US $26,500 price tag of the drug and the risk of nasty side effects.7

This summer, researchers published results from a phase III clinical trial of donanemab. The results are very promising: half of the participants did not experience disease progression. 5


New Research

Alzheimer’s Disease International publishes the World Alzheimer Report every year. Here’s the 2023 news they covered in last year’s report:

  • Sleep disturbances are associated with a higher risk of dementia.
  • Football players, with the exception of goalkeepers, are at increased risk of dementia. Heading the ball frequently over a long period of time isn’t great for your brain!
  • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of dementia.
  • Researchers identified new gene mutations that protect against Alzheimer’s disease. 6

Here’s a selection of our 2023 Alzheimer’s and dementia stories, have a read!

References


1.Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer Society of Canada. Accessed November 25, 2023. https://alzheimer.ca/en/take-action/change-minds/alzheimers-awareness-month

2.Alzheimer Society. The 10 warning signs of dementia. Alzheimer Society of Canada. Accessed November 25, 2023. https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/do-i-have-dementia/10-warning-signs-dementia

3.Medications approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease in Canada. Alzheimer Society of Canada. Accessed November 25, 2023. https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/how-can-i-treat-dementia/medications-approved-treat-alzheimers-disease-canada

4.What should Canadians know about lecanemab’s U.S. FDA approval? Alzheimer Society of Canada. Published January 11, 2023. Accessed November 28, 2023. Accessed November 28, 2023. https://alzheimer.ca/en/whats-happening/news/lecanemab-leqembi-canada-fda

5.What should Canadians know about donanemab’s initial drug trial release? Alzheimer Society of Canada. Published May 30, 2023. Accessed November 28, 2023. Accessed November 28, 2023. https://alzheimer.ca/en/whats-happening/news/what-should-canadians-know-about-donanemabs-initial-drug-trial-release

6.Long S., et al. World Alzheimer Report 2023. Alzheimer’s Disease International. Published September, 2023. Accessed November 28, 2023. https://www.alzint.org/u/World-Alzheimer-Report-2023.pdf

7.What the FDA Approval of Lecanemab Means for Patients and Families: A Q&A with MBWC Clinicians. University of Washington Medicine Memory and Brain Wellness Center. Published July 7 2023. Accessed Dec 15 2023. https://depts.washington.edu/mbwc/news/article/lecanemab

Olga Ciciu BSc
Olga Ciciu BSc
Olga Ciciu is a medical columnist for the Medical News Bulletin. She graduated from the University of Montreal with a bachelor's degree in Biopharmaceutical Sciences. She has expertise in the pharmaceutical industry and clinical epidemiology, which she further developed through her work as a Research Assistant and Drug Research and Development Consultant.
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