By Azoma Chikwe
The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is growing in Nigeria, experts say.
The reason, according to them is because people are living longer than before.
Professor of Neurology, University of Ibadan, Dr Adesola Ogunnaiyi, however, also said the disease does not happen to the aged alone but also to people below sixty-five.
Speaking at Gabi Williams Alzheimers Foundation (GWAF) lecture at Victoria Island, Lagos, recently, the neurologist disclosed that dementia is caused by brain failure or loss of mind.
“It can be diagnosed by certain indicators like neurological disorders. It is the second leading neurological disorder after stroke. The number of cases are increasing because people are living longer.
He lamented that money spent on health care in Africa is not much compared to what other countries spend on it, stressing that: “We need to spend more on health care. With urbanisation and civilisation, we are seeing more of western diseases in Nigeria like hypertension, diabetes, stroke, heart diseases etc.
“People eat in fast-food outlets and we are seeing more of western diseases instead of infections like typhoid, cholera etc.”
He said dementia is not a disease of old age alone, noting that, it cuts across age groups.
“Only about twenty per cent of people above eighty years have dementia. So, it is not only age that leads to dementia, there are other factors. Not all dementia are bad, some are treatable. Alzheimer’s disease is most important and sixty per cent of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Part of the work of GWAF is to correct misconceptions about dementia and that is commendable.
“The focus should be on dementia prevention since nothing can be done to take dementia totally away”. Efforts should be made to take good care of caregivers since they bear the burden of dementia.
“Exercise is beneficial to keep the brain active. Chances of identifying dementia is very slim, about 5 to 10 per cent. We have about ten neurologists in Nigeria that can take care of dementia but if you add psychiatrists that treat dementia, we have about twenty-five.’’
Earlier, Mr Tunde Williams, a trustee of GWAF noted that “we need an organization based in Nigeria with our cultural background to focus on Alzheimer’s disease. We need awareness. Unless we have awareness, we can’t really do anything.
Alzheimers can affect under 65, it is not only for the old. It is important Alzheimers can be managed , it is not a helpless situation. There is life after Alzheimers.”