Govt's must plan for the increasing burden of brain diseases - Prof Theo Vos

A global health expert says governments around the world need to start planning for an increase in neurological disorders.

Theo Vos is a Professor of Health Metrics Science at the University of Washington and was recently in Auckland for the Global Burden of Disease Brain Summit hosted by AUT.

He told Newshub Nation that the global increase in brain disorders from one-in-five to one-in-three people over the past 15 years is down to people living longer.

"[Neurological disorders] are the largest cause of disease burden and the second largest cause of death in the world, so it's very substantial," he said.

"When you have so many older people in your population then your health services will need to cater for all these pretty disabling diseases."

The Global Burden of Disease Study showed that nearly half of New Zealanders will suffer from a neurological disorder at some point, from chronic headaches to dementia or stroke.

Professor Vos says there are several steps people can take to reduce their risk factors for some of these diseases, but for others the causes are elusive.

"We're very good at doing things about stroke, we know how to deal with blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking - all major drivers of stroke.

"Another example is meningitis, an infection of the brain, for which we have very good preventative measures in vaccines.

"However, for the other big ones we are not very good at intervening. We have very little knowledge of what to do about dementia, we rely on drug treatments for things like Parkinson's and headache disorders, but we don't know how to prevent these diseases."

Professor Vos says greater research into the causes of neurological diseases is needed to come up with preventative measures.

"All the knowledge we have only explains less than a quarter of the total occurance of these diseases, the rest is a big unknown."

Newshub Nation.

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