OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians are developing dementia at such a rapid rate that dealing with the problem will cost a total of more than C$870 billion ($835 billion) over the next 30 years unless preventive measures are taken, a report released on Monday said.
Canada’s Alzheimer Society said more than 103,700 people developed dementia in 2008 in Canada, a country of around 33 million. By 2038, 257,800 new cases per year are expected, with almost 3 percent of the population affected.
“If we do nothing, dementia will have a crippling effect on Canadian families, our health care system and economy,” said the report, entitled Rising Tide. “It is the most significant cause of disability among Canadians over the age of 65.”
Dementia such as Alzheimer’s are progressive, degenerative diseases that destroy vital brain cells. There is no cure and are few treatments, although drugs can relieve some of the symptoms for a while.
An international report issued in September said more than 35 million people globally would suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in 2010. By 2030, the number would be almost 66 million.
In 2005, a study from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute estimated dementia cost global economies $315 billion a year.
David Harvey, spokesman for Rising Tide, said the Canadian campaign against dementia is hampered by the peculiarities of the country’s health care system, which is partly funded the federal government but administered by provincial governments.
“This problem is already with us but over the period of this generation it is going to be very significant. And if we don’t address it can overwhelm things like emergency rooms and hospitals,” he said.
“This disease flies under the radar of much of the health system and that’s why we’re issuing this kind of report.”
The report recommended that all Canadians over 65 without dementia should increase their physical activity by 50 percent.
It also called for the development of a National Dementia Strategy to be adopted by all levels of government as well as educating Canadians about the importance of risk reduction and early diagnosis.
“We need to refocus research on chronic diseases,” said Harvey.
Josee Bellemare, spokeswoman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, said the minister looked forward to reviewing the report and was committed to confronting the issue.
“Our government has made a number of other significant investments in Alzheimer’s and we are working on an international research strategy to address this global problem,” Bellemare said.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway