Neurological disorders are now the leading cause of ill health worldwide

Neurological conditions have now overtaken cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, according to a major new analysis.

Using data from the 2021 edition of the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD), researchers examined the impact of 37 different neurological conditions – including stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and meningitis – on poor health, disability and premature illness. death all over the world.

This was measured in what are known as ‘disability-adjusted life years’ (DALYs), or how many years of healthy life were lost due to the neurological conditions. The researchers found that between 1990 and 2021, the global number of DALYs caused by neurological disorders increased by 18 percent, from about 375 million to 443 million.

They also found that in 2021, the number of people with a nervous system disorder reached 3.4 billion, with the biggest contributors including stroke, neonatal encephalopathy (a type of brain injury that occurs in babies), nerve damage due to diabetes and epilepsy. .

The findings indicate a heavier burden of neurological disorders than previously thought, now making them the biggest global contributor to poor health. The study authors attribute this increase to a growing and aging population, as well as increased environmental, metabolic and lifestyle risks.

However, there is also good news among the bad: if the consequences of a growing and aging population are not taken into account, DALYs and deaths have actually decreased since 1990, which the researchers say is due to better awareness, prevention and vaccination. .

That said, the data still shows an increasing burden overall, but the researchers also identified some of the key ways in which the crisis could be addressed.

While it has been difficult to get a full picture of the impact in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) due to the quantity and quality of data, the research suggests that those countries are bearing the brunt of the increase.

“The loss of nervous system health disproportionately affects many of the poorest countries, partly due to the higher prevalence of conditions in newborns and children under five years of age, especially birth-related complications and infections,” says co-senior author Dr. Tarun Dua, head of department of the World Health Organization. The Brain Health Unit of the Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement. “Improved infant survival has led to an increase in long-term disability, while limited access to treatment and rehabilitation services contributes to the much higher rate of deaths in these countries.”

The researchers also suggest that prevention should be a top priority. “Because many neurological disorders have no cure and access to medical care is often limited, understanding modifiable risk factors and the potentially preventable burden of neurological diseases is essential to help curb this global health crisis,” said co-lead author Dr. Katrin Seeher, mental health care. specialist at the WHO Brain Health Unit.

The way healthcare organizations and policymakers approach this is likely to be complex – neurological conditions are diverse, and what works for some may not work for others, and that doesn’t even take into account potential social, cultural and economic barriers.

As lead author Dr. Jaimie Steinmetz concluded, “Disorders of the nervous system include infectious and vector-borne diseases and injuries, as well as non-communicable diseases and injuries, which require different strategies for prevention and treatment throughout life.”

“We hope that our findings can help policymakers better understand the impact of neurological disorders on both adults and children, so they can inform more targeted interventions in individual countries, and support ongoing awareness and advocacy efforts around the world coach.”

The study was published in The Lancet Neurology.

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