Neurological disorders are major threats to health

Press Release – Auckland University of Technology

Tuesday 6 October 2018

Neurological disorders are now one of the biggest threats to your health

Professor Valery Feigin at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) says neurological disorders are one of the biggest threats to your health, despite being largely preventable.

The world-renowned neurologist says they are the leading cause of disability and second cause of death worldwide. One-in-three people now suffer from a neurological disorder. In the past 15 years, the proportion of people affected has increased significantly, from 20 percent to more than 30 percent.

“Unlike other health conditions, neurological disorders affect the most vital organ of the body – the brain. It doesn’t just impact our physical health, but our distinctive features as human beings – our personality, our memory, our ability to experience emotion – the things that make us who we are,” says Professor Feigin, Director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at AUT.

Neurological disorders are diseases or injuries to the central and peripheral nervous system – the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves that connect them.

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study shows that almost every second New Zealander suffers from a neurological disorder, including tension-type headaches (1.3 million), migraines (800,000), stroke (51,000), Alzheimer’s and other dementias (40,000), epilepsy (10,000), Parkinson’s disease (6,000), and multiple sclerosis (4,000).

Disability from neurological disorders can be devastating, placing enormous psychological, physical and financial pressure on patients, their families and society.

Professor Feigin says the risk of disability is higher among men, while women tend to suffer more from tension-type headaches, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The prevalence of disabling neurological disorders increases markedly with age.

Almost 140,000 healthy life years are lost annually due to death and disability from neurological disorders.

In New Zealand, one-in-five deaths are due to neurological disorders.

Almost 6,000 people die each year from – Alzheimer’s and other dementias (46.3 percent), stroke (44.6 percent), cancer of the brain and nervous system (5.1 percent), motor neuron disease (2.4 percent), epilepsy (0.9 percent) and multiple sclerosis (0.7 percent).

Stroke is the most burdensome neurological disorder. Every year, around 9,000 New Zealanders suffer a stroke. The mortality rate is more than 20 percent. Together with heart disease and diabetes, it is one of the leading causes of death in New Zealand. There are more than 50,000 stroke survivors in New Zealand, many of them disabled and requiring significant support.

The risk of stroke among Māori and Pacific peoples is more than double that of Europeans. Their outcomes from stroke are also poorer.

However, many neurological disorders can be treated and prevented.

A stroke is the sudden interruption of blood flow to part of the brain, which causes it to stop working and eventually damages brain cells. It is often perceived as an unpredictable disorder that can happen to anyone. Yet, up to 90 percent of strokes could be prevented through the early detection and control of high blood pressure, and other risk factors.

“If you reduce the blood pressure of the population, you will see results immediately. It would also have a positive effect on countless other diseases. Hypertension, smoking, poor diet and lack of physical activity are common risk factors for all non-communicable diseases, including cancer,” says Professor Feigin.

To reduce your risk of stroke – monitor and control your blood pressure, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy diet, lower your salt intake, avoid alcohol and stop smoking.

For most people, normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower and high blood pressure is 140/90 or over.

If you think you might have high blood pressure, get it checked.

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NOTES TO THE EDITOR:

World’s leading minds will gather for Global Burden of Disease Brain Summit at AUT

International researchers, health professionals and policymakers will gather at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) for the Global Burden of Disease Brain Summit on November 27.

The one-day summit brings together the world’s leading minds and best available research on the global burden of neurological disorders, with those most committed to improving public health outcomes.

Professor Valery Feigin, Director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at AUT, says: “We need worldwide cooperation in the research, treatment and prevention of neurological disorders, which is grossly underfunded. Neurological care within the public health system needs to be strengthened, and effective primary prevention is essential to help curb this global health crisis”.

The Global Burden of Disease Brain Summit is a collaboration between AUT, The Lancet Neurology and the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study which is coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

The Lancet Neurology will release a special collection of articles on the global burden of neurological disorders before an international audience at the Global Burden of Disease Brain Summit.

For more information go to the website: aut.ac/AUTbrainsummit

The event will be live-streamed at aut.ac/AUTbrainsummitLIVE

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