Contrary to general belief, dementia is not an inevitable (or natural) consequence of ageing which, though, is the strongest risk factor, a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report has said.
It maintained that young onset dementia (defined as the onset of symptoms before the age of 65 years) accounts for up to 9 per cent of the total cases.
In fact, lifestyle risk factors, such as physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, certain medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes and smoking too are associated with a high risk of developing dementia.
Additional risk factors include depression, low educational attainment, social isolation, and cognitive inactivity, as per the report as per the WHO which has warned that the number of people with dementia is expected to triple in the next 30 years from around current 50 million.
These should be kept at the bay to prevent dementia, said the WHO as it recently issued health guidelines to tackle the mental health related debilitating progressive disease.
Dementia is a category of brain disease which can cause long-term memory loss and even gradual decrease in the ability to think. Dementia is not a specific disease, but a group of disorders associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills.
The decline is so severe it reduces a person's ability to perform simple daily activities and affects memory, comprehension, orientation and judgment among other cognitive functions.
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease.
Yet another studies show that in absolute terms, there are about 35.6 million people living in the world currently with dementia and 7.7 million new cases of dementia added every year, i.e., nearly one case every 4 s with highest projections in South Asian nations such as India and China.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia. The scientific evidence gathered for these Guidelines confirm what we have suspected for some time, that what is good for our heart, is also good for our brain."
The WHO Guidelines provide the knowledge base for health-care providers to advise patients on what they can do to help prevent cognitive decline and dementia. An essential element of every national dementia plan is support for carers of people with dementia, said Dr Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.
In India, only 10 per cent of the cases are diagnosed according to the Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), which has submitted a Dementia India Strategy Report to the Union Health Ministry.
There are seven core areas to set out as national priorities in the national strategy -- Make dementia a national health and social care priority; dementia awareness and dementia friendly communities; Risk reduction and dementia prevention; Improve access to best medical care strengthen standard treatment protocols; Social support services; Research and Development; Strengthen dementia disease surveillance system.