ARTICLE: An orange: the new face of Alzheimer’s research

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a condition which damages brain cells. It effects close to 50 million worldwide but it is shrouded in misconception. A recent study by Alzheimer’s Research UK found that only 25% of people know as little as what I’ve put in that opening sentence; that dementia is caused by a physical disease that impacts the brain. Too often, we see dementia as a natural and terrifying step in the ageing process, rather than a disease like any other that we can work to prevent and one day eliminate entirely.

This, of course, is all very well, but how does an orange fit anywhere into the future of dementia? An orange weighs around 140g- that’s the difference between a healthy brain, and a brain affected by Alzheimer’s. As a result of the disease, an affected brain shrinks 400% times faster than a healthy brain affected by ageing. That’s not only a staggering figure, it proves that when we talk about dementia, we’re not dealing with the normal ageing process, but something far more deadly. It also means that if dementia is not an inescapable fate for the old, it can be prevented- and that’s exactly what Alzheimer’s Research UK want us to know.

Alzheimer’s Research UK has released a video explaining the campaign, and drawing attention to the orange. The aim of the video is to raise awareness about the true nature of dementia, and they ask the viewer to share the video using the hash-tag #ShareTheOrange. Of course, this isn’t the first time charities have pushed a campaign raising awareness for an issue, and it’s easy to lose sight of why raising awareness is so important. We hear about it everywhere, but how will a hash-tag fight Alzheimer’s? Simple answer, it won’t. Not directly, anyway. But raising awareness has perhaps never been as key to a cause as it is for dementia, because it’s all about myth-busting and getting people talking. How can Alzheimer’s Research UK and similar charities begin to hope for funding and support when the public don’t see Alzheimer’s as a stoppable force?

[All rights to this video go to AlzheimersResearch UK]

Unless we change the way we talk about dementia, not as inevitability but as an awful disease we can fight, researchers stand no chance in treating it as such. And that’s where the orange comes in. It’s a simple symbol, and on its own will do very little for the cause. But the more we see that orange plastered on our timelines and home pages, the more dementia becomes a part of our dialogue. The real dementia; not an inevitable fate for our ageing loved ones, but a disease that, like better understood diseases, can be eliminated.

As I write this, just under 563,000 have shared the orange. It’s a fantastic start, and the more people watch the video to understand what kind of condition we’re really dealing with here, the more chance we have of turning the way we talk about dementia on its head, and finding a cure. It takes more than an orange to get us there, but it’s a great place to start.

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