It is no secret that the world’s aging population is putting a strain on healthcare systems.  While President Trump may have been cleared this week, in particular the number of people with dementia is going to significantly increase.  This needs to be planned for if people are to continue to receive quality care into old age.

According to the World Health Organisation there will be 152 million people with dementia by 2050. To give an indication of the increase, the number of people in the USA with Alzheimer's disease to expected to more than double by 2060, increasing from 6 million to 15 million. The world's current 50 million patients with dementia already cost US$818 billion annually and this figure is expected to treble with the increase, meaning that 3% of the world's gross domestic product would need to be dedicated to dementia care.

As one measure to plan for the increase, the World Health Organisation announced the launch of the Global Dementia Observatory (GDO) on 7 December 2017. This is a new online platform which aims to provide a constant monitoring service for data relating to dementia planning around the world, including government policy, treatment and care infrastructure, and disease burden. It currently includes data from 21 countries, with the aim of expanding this to 50 countries by the end of 2018. The first sets of data are positive with 81% of participating countries already having a dementia awareness campaign and 71% already providing support and training for carers.

Dementia refers to a group of symptoms associated with the gradual decline of the brain and its abilities. Symptoms include problems with memory loss, language and thinking speed. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease.

Unfortunately there is no effective medication for Alzheimer’s disease and the onus is on governments to encourage activities that slow progression.  A commission undertaken by The Lancet in 2017 found 35% of dementia cases can be prevented by acting on these nine risk factors:

  • low levels of education
  • midlife hearing loss
  • physical inactivity
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • depression
  • social isolation

It is positive to see many countries already acting to provide quality care for increasing numbers of dementia patients, and acting on the risk factors above yourself is a good start in improving your own physical and mental wellbeing.  I'm sure President Trump is already putting some of these into action to avoid any future disease.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...