The National Health Insurance database shows that at least 188 people with dementia live in the Virgin Islands, the VI Alzheimer’s Association announced this week as World Alzheimer’s Month activities got under way.
However, the actual number could be much higher.
“International data shows that in addition to those that have been diagnosed, another 75 percent are usually undiagnosed,” the association explained in a press release issued on Tuesday. “Therefore, a realistic estimate number of persons in the territory with a dementia is well over 300.”
To raise awareness about the issue, the association is hosting activities throughout September under the theme “Never Too Early, Never Too Late – Reduce Your Risk for Dementia.”
The observance started with the lighting of the Road Town roundabout on Friday and continued with a service Sunday at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Virgin Gorda.
Alzheimer’s Disease International states that up to 55 million, or about 40 percent, of projected dementia cases could be delayed or potentially avoided by addressing 12 risk factors, according to the VIAA.
Accordingly, the VI group and other dementia associations are calling on governments around the world to fund dementia risk-reduction research, education and support services.
Governments are also urged to make risk reduction a core element of their national dementia plans, according to the VIAA.
Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley lent his voice to the cause in a Monday statement.
“Those who have been diagnosed with dementia should continue to practice risk-reduction activities which could help them live better quality and longer lives,” Mr. Wheatley said, adding, “Risk reduction for dementia, including awareness around its importance, should be practised all different stages of a person’s life.”
Risk factors for dementia include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, infrequent social contact, head injuries, air pollution, and conditions including diabetes, hearing loss, depression, obesity and hypertension, according to the VIAA.
“As there is currently no cure for dementia, we must look to and take measures to reduce our risk for dementia,” said VIAA Founding Director Edna Williams.