Alzheimer’s Affects One in 40 Iranian Families

 Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases.

An estimated 600,000 Iranians suffer from Alzheimer’s, says Dr. Masoumeh Salehi, head of the Iran Alzheimer’s Association.

Given that there are about 23 million families in the country, it means one in 40 Iranian families are presently caring for a loved one with dementia.

The number of Iranians living with Alzheimer’s is growing fast. The figure is expected to escalate in the coming decades, as the baby boom generation (late 1970s and early 1980s) will reach 65 years and above, when the risk of the disease is the greatest.

“Diagnosis of early signs of the ailment can delay its onset by five years or slow its progression,” quoted Salehi as saying.

A national document on Alzeimer’s is currently being developed by the Health Ministry and ‘memory clinics’ will be established across the country with the implementation of the document. In the first phase, the centers will provide screening services to people at risk.

With the cooperation of the State Welfare Organization (SWO) “we are developing an accurate screening test for dementia.” Early diagnosis helps people with Alzheimer’s and their families.

Stating that some screening tests are already being conducted by the association, she urged people (above the age of 50) to take the tests which are free.

“During the screening, people are asked to complete several chores, including remembering a series of words. They are asked to repeat the words immediately and then again later.”

“People are graded on all the tasks. If they score low, they are encouraged to see a specialist,” she added.

  Treatment of Dementia

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.  It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80% of dementia cases. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

Current Alzheimer’s medications can help for a time with memory failure symptoms and other cognitive changes. Two types of drugs used to treat cognitive symptoms are cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, which treat moderate to severe dementia in patients with Alzheimer’s.

Unfortunately, only one-third of the medication costs are covered by insurance organizations, Salehi said.

“The association is making efforts to persuade the Health Ministry to categorize Alzheimer’s as a specific disease and cover a part of the treatment costs.” The estimated monthly medical expenditure for each patient diagnosed with the disease is between $570 and $1140.”

In some of the developed countries, effective treatments have been found for dementia and are fully covered by insurance companies, she said.  

She pointed to the services provided by the association and said, “During the first 6 months of the current year (ends in March 2017), 231 hours of telephone consultations have been offered to the patients’ families and memory tests conducted for 787 individuals. Also, 3,886 hours in Alzheimer prevention have been provided to people at risk of the disease development.”

  Risk Factors

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) by 2050, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s may nearly triple globally, from 46.8 million to a projected 131.5 million.

Like all types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is caused by brain cell death. It is a neurodegenerative disease, which means there is progressive brain cell death that happens over a course of time. The total brain size shrinks with Alzheimer’s - the tissue has progressively fewer nerve cells and connections.

However, there is some evidences that the same factors that put one at risk of heart disease also may increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s. Examples include lack of exercise, obesity, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, and diet lacking in fruits and vegetables.


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