The consumption of baked goods is often seen as ‘being bad’ or ‘naughty’ due to the high sugar and saturated fat content that these products typically contain. However, as well as being packed with sugar, they are of course incredibly delicious! Here at RSVP we do love cakes, sweets, pastries and pies, so knowing the ‘bad’ they may be doing to our waistlines, our goal is to also do some good with these ‘naughty’ things and make the good outweigh the bad.
RSVP is well-known amongst its staff for holding bake sales for some incredible causes and last week, we returned to a favourite charity of ours, The Alzheimer’s Society. There are approximately 850,000 people in the UK alone suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and this number is estimated to rise to over one million people by the year 2025.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a physical illness affecting the brain and is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often used interchangeably day to day, but dementia is in fact an umbrella term used to describe a group of neurological symptoms, not the cause of these symptoms.
The human brain is made up of billions of interconnected nerve cells (neurons) that, in a healthy brain, transmit electrical signals between each other providing information and impulses. In a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, the connections between neurons are progressively lost. This happens when abnormal protein structures called Amyloid Plaques or Neurofibrillary Tangles form, disrupting the synaptic communications between neurons.
Additionally, patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease have been shown to have lower levels of neurotransmitters in their brains, chemicals that pass impulses between neurons. The combination of these things means that nerve cells in the brain begin to die and brain tissue is lost. This in turn causes the dementia symptoms that characterise the disease.
The symptoms of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s include: confusion, disorientation, problems with speech and language, problems moving without aid and performing tasks of self-care, personality changes (such as hostility and paranoia), low mood, and anxiety. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and symptoms will worsen over time. The start of the illness can present as very simple problems such as forgetting a recent conversation, or the name of an object or place, before escalating into more serious issues over a length of time.
The cause of the disease is not completely clear at this time, and so there is currently no known way to prevent the condition developing. However, several risk factors have been identified. The largest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is simply an increased age, something no one can do anything about. It is estimated that 1 in 14 people in the UK over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related conditions, and this goes up to as many as 1 in 6 people over the age of 80. Other risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease include a family history of the condition, untreated depression, and certain lifestyle factors that are associated with cardiovascular disease.
Alzheimer’s can take a while to diagnose as many people feel that memory problems are simply a normal part of getting older. Conversely, not all memory problems are an indication of dementia and there is no single test to determine if a patient is suffering from the condition or not, so several tests, over time, need to be conducted.
At this time, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, though several medicines, including taking chemical replacements to certain neurotransmitters, can help relieve certain symptoms. Psychological treatments can also be used to aid with memory retention, problem solving skills and language ability.
Alzheimer’s is a life-limiting condition, and those suffering are in need of palliative care. The progression of the disease can lead to patients struggling to swallow and difficult eating and loss of appetite is common towards the latter stages of the illness.
While we still know relatively little about this condition, dozens of research studies across the world, several based in the UK, are currently underway. These studies hope to help further understand the condition, how to treat, prevent and perhaps even cure it in the future.
All proceeds raised by our recent bake sale will be going to the Alzheimer’s Society. This charity has pledged to spend £150 million on dementia research over the next decade, as well as helping to provide care for those suffering with the illness and emotional support for their affected families. If you would like to learn more about the Alzheimer’s Society and the work they do, check out their website here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/