Alan Levine / CC BY 2.0

Bournemouth University health and social science professor Colin Pritchard urges governments to act on research showing more and more people are getting dementia in middle age.

Pritchard writes at The Guardian:

Our first study, focusing on the changing pattern of neurological deaths from 1979 up to 1997, found that dementias were starting 10 years earlier – affecting more people in their 40s and 50s – and that there was a noticeable increase in neurological deaths in people up to the age of 74. In a follow-up study, taking us to 2010 and across 21 western countries, these increases were confirmed. …

This latest neurological study, published in the USA, found that there are more people with neurological disease than ever before. Deaths of men over 75 have nearly trebled in 20 years and deaths of women have increased more than five-fold. For the first time since records began, more US women over 75 are dying of brain disease than cancer.

In the other 20 western countries, most have doubled their neurological deaths and seven countries trebled their neurological toll. It might be argued that, as people live longer, they develop diseases that they previously did not live long enough to develop. While there is some truth in this, the speed and size of the increases in just 20 years points to mainly environmental influences.

What might these environmental features be? In the past 20 years, we have quadrupled our road and air transport, with the inevitable increases in air pollution exposing us to a range of noxious substances; our background radiation has increased with the use of technological devices; there are organophosphates in our food chain. We need to recognise the interactive relationship between these minor irritants that collectively affect human health. We are beginning to acknowledge the human impact on the natural world, but forget that we are part of the natural world, too. The evidence for this lies in a number of clinical studies from across the developed world, showing associations with a range of petrochemical radiation, heavy metals and so on.

A solution to this problem lies in the kind of action governments took to curb road deaths, Pritchard says. “In 1970,” he writes, “there were 7,500 fatalities in the UK; by 2010, they were down to 2,220 because the governments recognised the problem and acted. We need to recognise that these results are not a statistical artefact, but a warning.”

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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