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Dementia Set to Triple in Next 30 Years as Global Population Ages


FILE - Kim Mueller, left, administers a test to Alan Sweet, in which he describes an illustration, as part of a University of Wisconsin-Madison study on dementia, July 6, 2017.

The World Health Organization warns the number of people living with dementia globally will triple from 50 million to 152 million by 2050. WHO is launching a global monitoring system on dementia, which will track progress and identify areas of concern.

The WHO reports dementia exacts a huge social and economic burden, one that will grow as people age and succumb to this mental illness.

The agency estimates five percent of the world’s older population suffers from dementia and is in need of care. Belying common belief, WHO says this is not mainly a problem of rich countries as dementia also affects people living in poorer countries.

The health agency says the cost of caring for dementia patients today is $818 billion or one percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. Tarun Dua is a medical officer in WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. She says this economic cost will be more than $2 trillion by 2030.

“Moreover, there is stigma, human rights violations associated with people with dementia and their caregivers," said Dua. "And, therefore, it is imperative that we have a public health response. An important step that has been taken by all member States has been endorsing an action plan on dementia this year.”

She says the plan focuses on caring for people who have dementia, on preventing and on finding a cure for this illness. She says raising awareness of this problem is essential.

“Many people consider that dementia is a normal part of ageing, which is not true," said Dua. "We need to think about risking, preventing dementia because the risk factors for dementia are the same for communicable diseases. So, good exercise, good diet, no tobacco, decreasing alcohol, all of this can decrease the risk of dementia.”

Along with this, she says elderly people who suffer from depression should receive treatment for this malady. She says social inclusion and cognitive exercise are other strategies that should be employed to reduce the risk of dementia.

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