HAVANA - Researchers said Monday that the population with senile dementia is expected to double or even triple by 2040 in Cuba, which has one of the longest life expectancy rates in Latin America.
More than 160,000 people are suffering senile dementia in Cuba, which could increase to as many as 300,000, or 2.7 percent of the total population, in more than two decades, according to a study by the University of Medical Sciences in Havana and the Department of Studies on Alzheimer.
Cuba's annual rate of senile dementia is 21 per 1,000 people, similar to that of Europe and North America. "However, the prevalence (of senile dementia) in Cuba is one of the highest in Latin America due to longer life expectancy in our country," said Rodolfo Bosch, one of the researchers.
"Senile dementia is one of the biggest health problems facing all countries, and carries huge social and economic costs," he added. Senile dementia may be influenced by risk factors in middle age, including obesity, alcoholism and high cholesterol, as well as a low educational level. However, aging is the leading cause of senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease. "The prevalence of senile dementia grows together with the population aging, but this increase occurs exponentially," Bosch said. For example, he said, the estimated global population with senile dementia in 2015 was 44.6 million, but that would double every two decades to reach 65.7 million people by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050. Education has proven to be a factor, with those who finished high school appearing to have a 30 percent lower chance of suffering from dementia, while those who went on to university have a 40 percent lower chance. Currently, 19.4 percent of Cubans are aged 60 or older, or more than two million out of a total 11 million population, according to the National Statistics Bureau. By 2030, the number of people over 60 will reach 25 percent of the population, presenting a major challenge for the island's healthcare system.