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Working in the area of brain fitness and helping people to maintain their intellect across the lifespan I am well aware that as we live longer our risk of cognitive decline, of developing a dementia increases.

Alzheimer’s disease typically reveals itself from the age of sixty-five, or so we would  like to believe. But have you noticed there have been an increasing number of reports of people being diagnosed with neurological conditions at a far earlier age?

I have been involved in the care of people with dementia aged in their fifties. I have a young friend diagnosed in her late forties with Parkinson’s disease.

And these are not isolated cases.

Research has now revealed that statistically there has been a sharp increase in the number of people being diagnosed with dementia and in the number of deaths occurring from neurological conditions in people younger than 74, that cannot be explained simply by the fact we have a larger number of older people in our society.

Professor Colin Pritchard from Bournemouth University in the UK says that a larger number of people are developing these neurological conditions at a much earlier age, and it is affecting those under the age of 55.

The implication is that MORE people are developing brain disease, including Alzheimer’s.

Of the 10 biggest Western countries, the U.S. has seen the biggest increase in neurological deaths up 66% for men and up 92% for women for the years 1979 to 2010. For the U.K the increase were 32% and 48% respectively.

Again in regard to the UK two new charities have formed to help deal with the impact these conditions are having on the individuals and their families There is now the Young Parkinson’s Society and Young Dementia U.K.

The question is WHY is this happening?

As yet the answer is unknown. It may well be the result of epigenetic change or as a consequence of the rapid environmental changes we have seen over the last thirty years.

What is clear is that researchers and specialists are concerned by the statistics as evidenced by this new wave of neurological disease.

It would appear more than ever that lifestyle, the choices we make on a daily basis are having a significant impact on our health and wellbeing and it is not always for the positive.

Pritchard C, Mayers, A, Baldwin D. Changing patterns of neurological mortality in the 10 major developed countries 1979-2010. Public Health, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.puhe.2012.12.018

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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