There are approximately 46 million people living with dementia, costing $818 billion worldwide. By 2050, this number is estimated to rise to over 131 million people, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). With so many people living to be older, dementia is becoming one of the world’s most urgent healthcare issues.
This September marks the fifth annual World’s Alzheimer’s Month, with people around the world hosting events to raise awareness. The theme for 2016 is “Remember Me,” with people sharing memories on social media using the hashtags #RememberMe and #WAM2016. Alzheimer’s disease, along with vascular dementia, is one of the most common forms of dementia.
Recently released in honor of World’s Alzheimer’s Month is ADI’s annual Alzheimer Report. This year’s report emphasizes the importance of transferring responsibilities to primary care services from more specialized services, such as geriatrics, and psychiatrists. “As the numbers of people affected and the demand for services increase, it is unlikely that full coverage of dementia healthcare services can be attained or afforded using the current specialist care model,” the report states.
With all this worrisome news about the rise in dementia, the most important thing we can do is lead a brain-healthy lifestyle. Small changes can significantly delay the onset of dementia, reducing costs and strain on our health care system, and more importantly increasing quality of life for seniors. The Dana Foundation has a new set of four steps, based on research by the Institute of Medicine, to help keep the brain functioning into old age:
- Stay physically active – exercise regularly
- Reduce vascular factors (like high blood pressure and cholesterol) with a good diet, healthy lifestyle, and meditation when necessary
- Talk to your doctor about diseases and drugs that may impair brain function
- Keep your brain lively with social and intellectual activity, and adequate sleep
You don’t have to make major life changes in order to live a brain healthy lifestyle. Start small, by walking around town or reading the newspaper in the morning. Your brain will thank you!
For more resources on healthy aging, check out our latest Successful Aging & Your Brain program, read our Successful Aging & Your Brain booklet, or watch our most recent Dana/AAAS Neuroscience and Society public event, “Growing Older, Cognition, and What Science Has to Offer.”
– Ali Chunovic