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Dementia has increased astronomically in Nigeria (400%) in the last two decades says a recent study published by the Journal of Global Health Reports, University of Edinburgh.
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released its first guidelines for reducing risk for dementia and cognitive decline, advising that people may lower their risk by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight and eating a healthy diet.
Dementia is an illness characterised by a deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgement. Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer disease or stroke.
In the report issued on Tuesday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General said the number of people with dementia is expected to triple over the next 30 years. He highlighted the condition as a global health priority.
While age is the strongest known factor for decline, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging, the report found.
“We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia,” Ghebreyesus said. “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.”
This first national comprehensive study equally reveals that several communities in Nigeria still link dementia to a normal process of ageing, with many patients stigmatised and abandoned in the belief that the condition is beyond any medical intervention. Thus, many of those affected delay seeking medical care and endure poor outcomes.
The Guidelines provide the knowledge base for health-care providers to advise patients on what they can do to help prevent cognitive decline and dementia. They will also be useful for governments, policy-makers and planning authorities to guide them in developing policy and designing programmes that encourage healthy lifestyles.
The reduction of risk factors for dementia is one of several areas of action included in WHO’s Global action plan for the public health response to dementia. Other areas include: strengthening information systems for dementia; diagnosis, treatment and care; supporting carers of people with dementia; and research and innovation.
“It is important for policymakers to direct efforts at ensuring adequate infrastructure, personnel, training and research that focus on dementia, among other important mental health needs, in Nigeria,” Davies Adeloye, the lead researcher of the centre for global health research, University of Edinburgh.
He urged the government to provide comprehensive care and support institutions for people living with dementia as this is currently lacking in the country.