Why Alzheimer’s Disease Should Remain On The National Health Priority List

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Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia, is a neurodegenerative health condition which causes memory failure and other brain-related functions, such as speech, behaviour and awareness of surroundings. (Colin L. Masters, 2015) Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative and progressive disease therefore increasing risk significantly in the older generations and tends to be more prevalent among women. Potential risk factors could include; family history, genetics, head injury, heart-head connection, lifestyle. (ALZ, 2020)

Prevalence/ Mortality/ Incidence

In 2017 Dementia was the second leading cause of death in Australia, with 13,700 deaths and from these deaths 31% were caused by Alzheimer’s disease. (AIHW, 2019) Alzheimer’s is also the most prevalent type of dementia ranging from 50-75% of all cases. (ANU, 2012) The leading cause of death for women in 2017 was also Alzheimer’s disease at 11%, hence, it is certainly not surprising that Alzheimer’s/dementia is on the National Health Priority List in Australia. (AIHW, 2019) In 2018 it was estimated that between 376,000 and 436,000 had dementia. (AIHW, 2019) In 2011 The Australian National University stated that there were approximately 298,000 cases of dementia, they also hypothesised that in 2020 the number of cases would be close to 400,000 cases. (ANU, 2012) This is cause for the government to worry as it seems that in 2018 the number of cases already seems to have surpassed the target number for the year 2020. The incidence rates are only increasing and it’s estimated that by the end of 2058 cases will reach over 1,000,000.

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Subgroup – Older Women

Two sub-groups that are more likely to experience Alzheimer’s disease in Australia are older women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. As seen in figure 1, not only is Dementia and Alzheimer disease the leading cause of death (as said previously) for women, but also the percentage of female deaths is 64.5% and this percentage has not changed since. (Dementia Australia, 2020) Unfortunately, scientists have yet to determine the reason as to why Alzheimer’s, and dementia in general, is more predominant in women. However, according to Alzheimer.net some scientists believe other factors including the hormone change after menopause could be a potential cause but further research must be done to obtain a definitive answer. (Alzheimer.net, 2018) However the outcomes of having the disease can also affect the sexes differently, women tend to feel more guilty but appreciative (Alzheimer.net, 2018). Whereas men, even though less at risk of obtaining the disease, tend to be more aggressive and harder to control when they’re unfamiliar with their surroundings. Only recently a nurse was attacked at Modbury Hospital in Adelaide, South Australia by an elderly man whom had severe Alzheimer’s. (ABC news, 2020) This again shows that more concern should be showed for those suffering with severe cases of Alzheimer’s for both men and women, so medical staff don’t have to deal with such beatings from patients and should therefore maintain its place in the National Health Priority list. Figure 1: Figure 1 shows the leading causes of death in Australia in 2017 between men and women.

Subgroup – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The Aboriginal community in Australia has a dementia prevalence of approximately 3 to 5 times more than the non-indigenous Australian population all while also obtaining the disease earlier. Alzheimer’s also being the most prevalent within the Aboriginal community, also, despite such high number’s dementia in these communities is often overlooked by health authorities. The reasons as to why dementia is so prevalent in Aboriginal communities is still being explored, however, dementia has very similar risk factors to many other chronic illnesses which are also predominant are; heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, etc. These risk factors all of which Aboriginal communities prevail in include; obesity, little physical activity, diabetes, poor diet, alcohol consumption, etc. (L Flicker, K Holdsworth, 2014) The amount of people over the age of 55 years is expected to double by 2021 therefore heavily increasing the prevalence of dementia in these communities even further. In the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey it was recorded that over 30% of citizens over 15 years old had problems accessing health care systems. (AIHW, 2011) This is particularly problematic if these groups of people ae to reduce their chances of gaining dementia.

Therefore, Dementia and Alzheimer’s should definitely remain on the National Health Priority list as it is currently the leading cause of death for older women, and extremely prevalent Aboriginal communities. With cases expecting to grow drastically in the near future due to Australia having an ageing population.

Reference list

  1. Masters, CL, Bateman, R, Blennow, K, Rowe, CC, Sperling, RA & Cummings, JL 2015, ‘Alzheimer’s disease.’, Nature Reviews., vol. 1.
  2. Barnard, ND, Bush, AI, Ceccarelli, A, Cooper, J, de Jager, CA, Erickson, KI, … Squitti, R 2014, ‘Dietary and lifestyle guidelines for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.’, Neurobiology of Aging., vol. 35 Suppl 2, pp. S74–S78.
  3. Nebel, RA, Aggarwal, NT, Barnes, LL, Gallagher, A, Goldstein, JM, Kantarci, K, … Mielke, MM 2018, ‘Understanding the impact of sex and gender in Alzheimer’s disease: A call to action.’, Alzheimer’s & Dementia : the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association., vol. 14, no. 9, pp. 1171–1183.
  4. Radford, K., Lavrencic, L., Delbaere, K., Draper, B., Cumming, R., Daylight, G., Mack, H., Chalkley, S., Bennett, H., Garvey, G., Hill, T., Lasschuit, D. and Broe, G., 2019. Factors Associated with the High Prevalence of Dementia in Older Aboriginal Australians. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 70(s1), pp.S75-S85.
  5. Radford, K, Lavrencic, LM, Delbaere, K, Draper, B, Cumming, R, Daylight, G, … Broe, GA 2019, ‘Factors Associated with the High Prevalence of Dementia in Older Aboriginal Australians.’, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease., vol. 70, no. s1, pp. S75–S85.
  6. Healthdirect.gov.au. 2020. Dementia Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dementia-statistics [Accessed 1 April 2020].
  7. Aihw.gov.au. 2019. [online] Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/bfdc9f09-2f31-4ea4-aa31-c20ce76bf828/Dementia-factsheet.pdf.aspx [Accessed 1 April 2020].
  8. HealthEngine Blog. 2007. Alzheimer's Disease (Dementia, Memory Loss) Information | Myvmc. [online] Available at: https://healthengine.com.au/info/alzheimers-disease#What_is [Accessed 1 April 2020].
  9. Association, A., 2020. Alzheimer's & Dementia Help | Australia | Alzheimer's Association. [online] Alzheimer's Association. Available at: https://www.alz.org/au/dementia-alzheimers-australia.asp#about [Accessed 1 April 2020].
  10. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2019. Deaths In Australia, Leading Causes Of Death - Australian Institute Of Health And Welfare. [online] Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/leading-causes-of-death [Accessed 1 April 2020].
  11. Anuadri.anu.edu.au. 2013. Types Of Dementia - ANU-ADRI - ANU. [online] Available at: https://anuadri.anu.edu.au/alzheimer-s-disease-facts-figures/types-of-dementia.html [Accessed 1 April 2020].
  12. Dementia.org.au. 2020. Dementia Australia | Dementia Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.dementia.org.au/statistics [Accessed 1 April 2020].
  13. ABC News. 2020. Nurse Knocked Unconscious And Needed CPR After Attack By Patient, Union Says. [online] Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-27/sa-nurse-reportedly-knocked-unconcious-in-modbury-hospital/12006510 [Accessed 1 April 2020].
  14. Dementia.org.au. 2014. [online] Available at: https://www.dementia.org.au/files/Alzheimers_Australia_Numbered_Publication_41.pdf [Accessed 1 April 2020].
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