The latest incidence of systemic brain disease in Australia is a “serious concern” and should be considered a “systemic” disease, the National Centre for Biomedical Research (NCBR) has said.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) said the latest data showed that more than 60 per cent of people with the disease were older than 65.
The NHMRC said that there was “an increased prevalence of dementia and dementia-related conditions in the older age groups”.
The latest figures, released by the NCBR, showed the number of people living with the condition has risen by 7,000 since 2011, with the rate of dementia rising by 3.8 per cent a year.
It said it was important to recognise that the prevalence of the condition remained stable across age groups and that the proportion of people who did not have symptoms remained stable.
“While the rate in older people is increasing, it is still higher than that of the general population,” the NHMDC said.
“The risk of developing dementia in older adults remains very high, and this is reflected in a high rate of survival, particularly in the elderly.”
The NHMDRC said the new figures revealed that about a quarter of all people with chronic brain disease (CBD) are now aged 65 or older.
There were also increases in the proportion with the conditions who were not suffering from any other mental or physical health conditions.
About 15 per cent were aged 50 or over.
The new figures were released by NCBR Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry Dr Peter Hulsman.
Dr Hulsmans said that although the increase in the number with the diagnosis of the disease was encouraging, the number living with it was not.
“These figures are not good news, they show the rate is increasing but we are also concerned because we know that this is a systemic disease,” he said.
Dr John Hulsmann, professor of psychiatry at Newcastle and a senior fellow at the Newcastle University School of Medicine, said the rate was a significant concern.
“It means there are more people in the general Australian population living with dementia than we are currently seeing in the population at large, which is not good,” he told News24.
“We need to understand why we are seeing these older people who are suffering from these conditions.”
Dr Hulmans said there was a need to consider other factors.
“There are a number of other factors which might be driving the increase and we need to look at them,” he added.
Dr David Condon, professor in the Centre for Epidemiology at the University of Newcastle and the lead author of the new NCBR paper, said there were also a number other factors including the increased rate of diabetes in Australia, the increased number of cases of obesity and the higher rate of asthma. “
What we do now is we need more research to understand how to stop this happening and what is the best way of preventing it.”
Dr David Condon, professor in the Centre for Epidemiology at the University of Newcastle and the lead author of the new NCBR paper, said there were also a number other factors including the increased rate of diabetes in Australia, the increased number of cases of obesity and the higher rate of asthma.
“When you look at what we see around the world, in the developed world there’s a huge increase in these conditions, particularly diabetes, obesity and asthma,” Dr Condon said.
He said there had been “some progress in the past couple of years, but it’s not where we want it to be”.
“We have to do much more, much faster, to tackle this epidemic.”
Dr Cordon said there needed to be a concerted effort to address the underlying causes of the epidemic.
“For decades we’ve been saying the heart of this epidemic is diabetes and we’ve seen some improvements,” he explained.
“But it is also that people don’t understand how these diseases are linked to the lifestyle factors they are eating, or how these factors can be exacerbated by tobacco smoking.”
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute said it did not endorse any one cause of the pandemic, but “we do not know that smoking is the cause of this pandemic.”
The heart institute said there appeared to be “some risk factors” associated with the increase of stroke, including older age, being older, living in the western states and having a higher risk of having stroke.
The institute said a range of lifestyle factors, including obesity and stress, also had an effect.
Dr Curnons work has focused on developing more effective treatments for stroke and dementia.
He is also an expert in stroke prevention and management and is currently conducting research on stroke.
“I would like to see a lot more focus on lifestyle, on diet, exercise, diet and lifestyle,” he says.
“That is the key to stopping the pandemics and the stroke pandemias.”