Brain diseases have become epidemics, as every third European suffers from one of them. They mostly occur in people aged 65 or more, but they constitute a huge burden for the entire society. Some of them are also found in young people.
Brain diseases are not only epilepsy, cerebral stroke, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, the latter of which has been the most broadly discussed in the recent years. This group of diseases also includes multiple sclerosis, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, ADHD and addictions, which are a growing challenge for the healthcare system.
Young people most frequently experience migraine, epilepsy, depression and schizophrenia, which is most often diagnosed in persons aged less than 30. 2.7 million, i.e. 9% of Poles suffer from migraine.
According to Professor Grzegorz Opala, President of the Polish Brain Council, a few years ago it was estimated that 400 thousand people in Poland suffer from dementia, of which 250 thousand from Alzheimer’s. Over 100 thousand Poles have Parkinson’s disease, and 60 thousand every year experience a stroke, which causes substantial damage to the brain.
As the specialist emphasises, these data, however regularly cited, are already outdated. There are no exact information as to how many Poles suffer from Alzheimer’s, but, according to forecasts, until 2020 the number of patients with various types of dementia can rise even to a million.
The number of people with various types of brain diseases is constantly growing, as they mostly occur in people above the age of 65, and the number of elderly people is increasing. In Poland there are already 4.7 million people who have reached this age; in 2030 their number will grow to 8.5 million, when every fourth Poles will be more than 65 years old.
Two thirds of elderly people suffer from at least one chronic disease, such as diabetes, cardiovascular and brain diseases. Many of them are co-morbidities, for instance, hypertension and diabetes facilitate the development of vascular sclerosis, which is one of the main causes of dementia.
As a result, the expenditures on the treatment and care for people with brain diseases are increasing; they constitute a greater challenge for healthcare than circulatory system diseases, neoplasms and diabetes. According to Professor Opala, in the European Union in the years 2004-2010 the expenditures grew from EUR 386 billion to 798 billion and are constantly growing.
Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that brain diseases are imposing a strain on the healthcare budget. In turn, specialists in the field emphasise that measures should be taken to prevent the expansion of costs.
There is hope in prevention
Psychiatrist Professor Tadeusz Parnowski stresses that it is enough to delay the symptoms of at least some brain diseases in order to considerably reduce both the costs of treatment and care. However, much depends on patients themselves.
The President of the European Brain Council Mary G. Baker, PhD, from London, claims that regular mental activity is equally important as physical exercise.
“We must learn how to manage our brain, also healthwise" said Baker during her visit to Warsaw.
Mental effort delays the development of Alzheimer’s. Better-educated people suffer from dementia less often. Professor Opala also states that solving crosswords may not be enough – more effort is needed, for instance, it worth considering taking up classes in a new foreign language.