Although the greatest known risk factor for dementia is increasing age, there is now a proven correlation between the disease and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Dr. Ambrose Ramsay, consultant geriatrician at the Geriatric and District Hospitals, speaking on behalf of Health Minister John Boyce, revealed this at the opening ceremony of the Regional Conference on Alzheimer???s and Dementia at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Thursday evening.
Dr. Ramsay noted that while the majority of dementia sufferers were aged 65 and older, up to five per cent of persons could experience onset of the disease in their 40s and 50s.
He said that statistics from the World Alzheimer???s Report 2015 revealed that of the 46.8 million people living with dementia in 2015, 58 per cent were to be found in developing countries.
Meanwhile, the developed countries of Western Europe and the United States were seeing a decrease in new cases of dementia, and this decreased incidence had occurred in tandem with declines in smoking, heart disease and strokes.
Dr. Ramsay said that with the percentage of elderly persons in the Barbadian population predicted to reach 17 per cent by 2020, along with the increasing prevalence of NCDs in Barbados, the rate of dementia was almost certain to continue in an upward trend.
???The Ministry of Health will continue to promote good health and wellbeing for the Barbadian population, including optimal management of non-communicable diseases, to reduce the incidence of dementia,??? he said.
He outlined some of the measures already in place, including the passage of legislation to ban smoking in public places and the tax on sugar sweetened beverages.
???We encourage individuals to make use of publicly provided resources to screen for high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol, and to adhere to recommended treatments for the control of abnormal levels of these factors to reduce their individual risk of developing dementia.???
With specific reference to the elderly, Dr. Ramsay said that Government was committed to ensuring the availability of quality care and to improve access to appropriate services through the integration of a comprehensive programme of geriatric medicine into the wider healthcare system; and the expansion of elderly day care programmes and in-home assistance.