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Women have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease – Don

Tare Youdeowei

A Professor of medicine at the University of Ibadan, Prof. Sola Ogunniyi, has said that women have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The professor made this known at the 2018 Annual Memorial Lecture in honour of Dr Gabisiu Williams, organised by the Gabi Williams Alzheimer’s Foundation on Wednesday at the Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island Lagos.

Speaking on the topic, ‘Challenges faced by Nigerian families dealing with Dementia: What can be done?’ Ogunniyi, who specialises in neurology, said Alzheimer’s is a type of Dementia, just as there is Vascular Dementia associated with stroke and  Parkinson’s with Dementia.

He attributed women’s predisposition to the gift of longevity. “The female gender is more at risk because they live longer, with age being the highest risk factor for dementia. However, it is of note that dementia is not a normal consequence of ageing as only 20 per cent of the elderly in Nigeria have it.

“GWAF seeks to attack these misconceptions and stigma attached to dementia that has caused many elderly persons, particularly women, to act in societally unacceptable ways and be tagged witches and burned. We propose a creche for dementia so that sufferers can be cared for; loved ones can drop them in the morning and pick them after work. Memory boxes can also be available in these centres, that can be used for cognitive stimulation therapy.”

Ogunniyi, however, warned that the number of dementia cases is rising in Africa and called for increased government spending for the elderly. “By 2030, the number of affected persons would rise to 3.48 million if steps are not taken to raise awareness so people can protect against it. That is why GAWF is advocating for more government spending for dementia research. Government is spending too little on caring for the elderly. We are also seeking for at least one per cent of the health budget to be for researching dementia and caring for the elderly population.”

He added that although Alzheimer’s itself was not hereditary and not yet curable, some types of dementia are. “Fortunately, certain types are curable. Those types are often triggered by accidentally hitting the head against a surface which can cause clotting of blood in the brain.

Ogunniyi further urged Nigerians to work towards preventing all forms of dementia by increasing brain and physical activity. “Preventing dementia can be done through increasing social engagement, increasing the level of education, physical exercises and mental exercises, like crossword puzzles and game. Essentially, you want to do things that stimulate brain activity. People should also try to keep their stress levels down and avoid depression. Adults should walk or even cycle more to keep dementia and diseases associated with it at bay.”

Supporting the call for awareness were Psychiatrists under the auspices of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of Nigeria. They were represented by Dr Mbanuzuru Ahoma who disclosed that, “Every three seconds someone develops a form of dementia, as such it is a cause for concern. That is why every September is World Alzheimer’s month and we have partnered with GWAF to boost awareness.”

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