KOCHI: The slow pace in which dementia, progressive neurological illness, affecting people calls for preventive health measures.
According to the recent study of World Health Organisation (WHO), five crore of the world's population with nearly one crore new entrants per year, are affected with the illness.
"Among the elderly population, five to eight per cent has dementia. And among its various forms, Alzheimer's constitutes 60-70 per cent of cases," said Dr Joe Verghese, professor of neurology and chief of integrated divisions of Cognitive and Motor Aging and Geriatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.
Speaking at the International Neurology Summit held in Kochi, Dr Joe said that effective public health intervention programmes for prevention and slowing down of dementia to improve the lives of afflicted people must take place.
"Setting new standards and going beyond specialist care homes, countries like Netherlands and Canada have started separate dementia villages for people with dementia to offer personalised care," said Dr Joe.
Kerala-Einstein Study: Impactful research
According to Dr Joe Verghese, Indo US team has been doing specialised research, 'Kerala-Einstein Study', in Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in Kerala since 2008.
The team consists of Dr P S Mathuranath (NIMHANS, Bangalore) and Dr V G Pradeep (Baby Memorial Hospital, Kozhikode). Dr K A Salam (Meitra Hospital) and Dr Mohan Noone (Baby Memorial Hospital) are the other key members.
Research activities of KES include biological repository at Sree Chitra Institute, and identifying genetic abnormalities in dementia in Kerala patients, KES has developed a picture-based cognitive screening test called Picture based Memory Impairment Screen (or PMIS), for identifying older patients with cognitive impairment in clinical settings.
Using pictures enables doctors to screen elderly in rural areas who cannot otherwise be tested using standard cognitive tests.
"In the next five years, KES would carry out a comprehensive study on risk factors for Motoric Cognitive Risk syndrome in elderly population using sophisticated epidemiological and neuro-imaging methods," he said.