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India’s youth ignorant about Alzheimer’s


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Concerns are surfacing over concerns that India’s youth are ignorant about symptoms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions

Does the nation’s younger generation know enough about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? The alarming results of a new survey suggest no.

91% of youth don’t consider forgetfulness a disease

The survey – conducted by Dr. Madhuri Behari, consultant of neurology at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Delhi Hospital, Vasant Kunj – took place between December 2016 and January 2017. It involved 2000 subjects in the 15-40 age demographic. Some of the findings are as follows:

  • 91% youth don’t consider forgetfulness as a disease
  • 85% don’t know about Alzheimer’s as a disease
  • 82% said no – does diabetes predispose to dementia?
  • 72% said no- do you know if alcoholism can predispose to dementia?
  • 90 % said no- do you know that repeated strokes can cause memory impairment?
  • 97% don’t know the cause of dementia

The figures shown here are concerning. For example, the lack of awareness of forgetfulness as an initial symptom of dementia implies dementia slips under the radar, preventing diagnosis and treatment.With many not knowing Alzheimer’s disease is a condition at all this reaffirms this notion.

India has the third highest number of dementia patients in the world, numbering 4.1 million. Given the results of this study this number may be far higher, as many people diagnosed will be taken to the doctors by family, rather than of their own accord. If people are unaware of the disease it is unlikely they will refer their family or friends to the doctor when presenting the symptoms.

Given the global count of 46.8 million diagnosed with dementia we are left with two assumptions relating to India’s low number of dementia patients compared to the global number (less than 10 percent despite forming roughly 17 percent of the global population). Either the dementia rate is significantly lower amongst the Indian population, or the rate of diagnosis is lower compared to other countries.

Dementia in India “to surge”

India presents conditions in which dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) is prevalent. For example, it has high diabetes rates which are implicated in higher rates of dementia because of worse metabolic conditions in brain cells and damage to small blood vessels within the brain. India’s population is also ageing. Some have projected the rates of dementia to surge in India in just a few years, though it is entirely possible the rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s is far higher than currently recorded.

Worldwide numbers of dementia cases are estimated to hit 131.5 million by 2050, India will also see a large scale rise and will share a large portion of the increased numbers. With this comes the associated cost to the healthcare system, which at current spending levels is likely to be unprepared for the influx of the expensive care, estimated to number in the trillions of dollar.

Dementia is a difficult disease to manage. According to Dr Behari a patient in India is diagnosed every minute and there are no known cures or methods of reversing the symptoms. Public knowledge of the disease is therefore highly important as it can be a massive strain on the patient’s relatives. It is apparent that public knowledge is currently lacking, which may further strain the country’s health system in years to come.

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