Cases of Alzheimer’s disease are being underestimated in Colombia by 50%, according to a study by ICESI University in Cali, Colombia.
With Colombia being one of the fastest aging countries in Latin America, the elderly are developing the early onset symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which are often being overlooked, according to Cartagena‘s El Universal newspaper. The paper also reported that mental healthcare is available to less than 1% of the country’s population, limiting diagnosis and treatment.
Approximately half of all those suffering from the early onset of the disease have been underestimated and overlooked, according to the ICESI University study published by Bloomberg.
“Governments must understand that Alzheimer’s disease is a big problem and every day it increases because the population is aging in our countries,” said Yuri Takeuchi Tan, author of the study and dean of Health Sciences at ICESI University.
As of last year there were approximately 300,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Colombia, according to HelpAge International, an NGO with a presence in 75 countries.
However, the disease impacts more than just the person diagnosed.
“Alzheimer’s disease [affects] not only the patient’s family. The patient loses his memory, the ability to relate and his ability to function,” said Tan, adding that Alzheimer’s is “a progressive disease that leads to deterioration and total dependence on patients.”
“World Capital of Alzheimer’s”
Colombia is certainly no stranger to Alzheimer’s.
In Yarumal, a village in the northern state of Antioquia, more people suffer from Alzheimer’s than anywhere else in the world. The local population suffers from a rare strain of Alzheimer’s; a genetic mutation that runs in the community’s bloodlines.
The genetic mutation is called “paisa variation,” with “paisa” referring to locals in Antioquia.
This form of the disease has an early onset, first occurring in patients about 45 years old rather than the more common form, which emerges much later.
Yarumal received a grant in 2012 to research the “paisa variation” which has been recognized so far in 25 families in the area. The descendants of the “paisa variation” include about 5,000 people.
Alzheimer’s cases are also underestimated in East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, according to Bloomberg.