Dementia – a public health challenge spread on a global scale
Both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are international public health challenges that our generation must learn to deal with. New data reveals that the future impact of these chronic illnesses has been under estimated, especially in Sub-Saharan African and East Asian regions. We’re talking about a global epidemic that’s tough to face in a society where access to support, care, social protection and services is limited. In a couple of decades, the burden will shift to poorer countries; the upcoming scale of the dementia epidemic can be stabilized through fundamental progressions in population health.
Disease control and public health measures that targets obesity, smoking, diabetes, lack of physical activities and hypertension must become a priority. It is possible to raise awareness and help the population understand that factors meant to enhance cognitive development have the highest chances of improving brain health in senior individuals in their 50s and 60s, thus reducing dementia risks in late life.
The link between dementia, HIV and lifestyle in African countries
The increase in diseases such as hypertension and diabetes in Africa in the last years occurs due to several important factors; lifestyle is one of them. Adopting the Western diet that’s mostly based on high fat and high sugar foods can have a detrimental effect on people’s general wellbeing. In South Africa for instance, cardiovascular diseases represented 17% of death rate back in 2000. This country also accounts for 17% of HIV infection rates on a global scale. HIV is linked to cognitive declined, and cognitive decline is connected to HAD, HIV-associated dementia. 10% of the people getting HAART, highly active antiretroviral therapy, have this form of dementia. HIV-associated dementia has a great effect on younger adults. Older adults are at risk of developing both Alzheimer’s and HIV-associated dementia.
Statistical data shows that a rapid increase will soon occur in the number of seniors, particularly in countries with low and middle incomes. In 2013, 11.7% of the global population was made up of people older than 60. The number is estimated to grow at 21.1% by 2050. In South Africa alone, over 4.5 million people out of the 54 million populations number was over 60. By 2025, experts suggest that this number will reach 5.5 million.
A better understanding of dementia
Better described as an umbrella term, dementia sums up issues seniors have that are linked to various brain disorders. These affect their general ability to perform daily activities independently, and sadly it has no cure. The most common symptoms of dementia include gradual or sudden decline in the mental judgment. Alzheimer’s disease is probably the most common form of dementia. However, there are others including front-temporal dementia, vascular dementia and Lewy body disease.
Pharmaceutical companies, researchers and caregivers like Forest Healthcare around the world have failed to come up with a cure. Alzheimer’s occurs when two proteins start building up inside the human brain to form specific structures. The process leads to nerve cell breakdown, loss of brain tissue and ultimately, nerve cell death. Even though there are drugs that might slow down memory decline and alleviate behavioral symptoms, patients struggling with dementia should know that there’s no turning back.
Site last updated: 18. September 2019
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