An expert neurology research group co-chaired by Alastair Noyce of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary University of London has produced an evidence-based report of policy recommendations, calling for policymakers, researchers, funding bodies, and healthcare professionals to collaborate in planning for the healthcare structures of the future, and to encourage individuals to actively prioritize their own brain health.
3 October 2019
“Time matters: a call to prioritize brain health” urges health authorities to plan now, by gathering the evidence that is needed to make wise and transformative decisions, and to educate the general public about the progressive nature of the neurodegenerative diseases that are becoming increasingly widespread as people live longer.
The report focuses on Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, because they are the two most common neurodegenerative diseases. Parkinson’s affects more than 6 million people worldwide and Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, affecting 50 million people. The process of neurodegeneration begins many years before symptoms appear, and it may take years for an at-risk individual to progress through the presymptomatic and prodromal disease phases, until a clinical diagnosis can be made.
Alastair Noyce, co-chair of the writing group said: “There is a ‘10–20-year window of opportunity’ in midlife during which people can reduce the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease or delay its progress. We cannot change our genetic make-up, but we can help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases ourselves by taking exercise, keeping socially active, eating healthily, reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and keeping our brains active.”
Campaigns to detect disease early, provide timely intervention, and communicate important public health messages have had great success in areas of medicine such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, but the same is not true for most conditions of the brain, including neurodegenerative diseases. Brain health is slowly becoming better understood, but much still needs to be done to manage the projected increase in the numbers of people affected by progressive neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Strategies to limit the impact of neurodegenerative diseases may be feasible once research has identified effective diagnostic tools and disease-modifying treatments. When that moment comes, these researchers say we need to be prepared.
Time matters: a call to prioritize brain health is published by Oxford Health Policy Forum CIC. A full copy of the report is available at www.oxfordhealthpolicyforum.org