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Alzheimer’s special

18 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 26 December 2012

Alzheimer's Special
The latest Global Burden of Disease Study published in the Lancet, which took more than 5 years to complete and covers 50 countries, found that deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia have risen more than three-fold between 1990 and 2010. Those aged 65 have a one in 20 chance of developing Alzheimer’s, and those over 80 years old have a one in five chance of developing the disease. So as people in low income countries start to live longer the total numbers are set to rise.

Based in the Indian state of Kerala, Dr Jacob Roy is the Chair of Alzheimer’s Diseases International, and outlines how a diagnosis is generally made.

Alzheimer’s Disease involves the loss of significant numbers of brain cells and these changes in brain volume can be seen by comparing scans of the same person taken at different times. Using this technique Dr Maria Vittoria Spampinato, from the Medical University of South Carolina in the USA, has revealed something intriguing about the different ways that male and female brains respond to Alzheimer’s.

As Alzheimer’s begins to progress, memory loss and confusion are typical symptoms. Retired London dentist Dominic Batty and his wife Jill, who looks after him, tell Health Check what it is like to live with Alzheimer’s.

Many people do not know they have Alzheimer’s. Wherever you live in the world it remains undiagnosed in a high proportion of cases, particularly in the developing world, as Dr Jacob Roy explains.

One of the big mysteries with Alzheimer’s is why every year, only 10% of people with a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment go on to develop the disease, while others stay the same and some might even get better. At the Institute of Neurology in London, the work of Professor Nick Fox and others is trying to get to the bottom of this. They suggest that changes in the brain may occur many years before people notice any symptoms.


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    Health Check

    The BBC World Service's weekly round up of global health stories and topical issues in medicine.

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    Science Hour

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