June 26th, 2019

To Your Health: Lagging behind in dementia research

By Gillian Slade on July 30, 2018.

About 25,000 new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year in Canada.

There are already more than 500,000 people living with dementia in our country and experts have estimated that number will double in the next 13 years.

There are more cases of dementia in prosperous nations because the people of those nations tend to have a higher life expectancy. The fact is the longer you live the more likely you are to develop some form of dementia.

However, we are lagging behind in research into the causes, improved treatments, and possible cures. Lagging behind when you consider the number of research studies to address causes, and treatments for cancer.

According to one international report there are about 1,000 active clinical trials related to cancer across the world and only 142 for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Degeneration of the brain that causes memory loss can affect behaviour, speech, physical ability and eventually leads to death.

World wide there are 40 million people with dementia with an estimated trillion dollars being spent on treating the symptoms.

There are only about 30 studies world wide, in the trial phase, most are looking at how proteins accumulate in the brain and result in Alzheimer’s disease. There are also a small number studying how chemicals in the brain are affected and a few include determining the effectiveness of existing drugs to treat it.

There is currently no cure but there are drugs to slow the progression of the disease particularly when it is diagnosed in the early stages.

About 50 years ago a diagnosis of cancer meant you were most likely going to die. Research has brought us to the place where many cancers are treatable. That is fantastic.

It would be wonderful to reach that point with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In the meantime we can all do our part to reduce the stigma attached to the disease. For anyone diagnosed with the disease, and their loved ones, it is no laughing matter and it can be extremely hurtful.

We should support organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Society, that is invaluable for those diagnosed with dementia and their loved ones.

We should also give financially to see more research studies and support initiatives to make this possible.

If you or your family have not been touched by the disease yet, chances are you will be in the future and time is of the essence.

Here’s to more research into effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer’s and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.

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