Why Don’t We Care About Alzheimer’s Like We Do About Cancer?

1 out of 3 will experience a brain disease during their life. We include all diseases that will affect your brain, including mental illness. (Source: European Brain Council) However, few countries and leading politicians have recognized the fact that brain diseases is the most costly burden for our societies.

Former PM David Cameron in the UK expressed: “The truth is that dementia now stands along cancer as one of he greatest enemies of humanity.” The cost to society and to the individuals and families affected are staggering.

– “In the UK, it was estimated that the health and social care costs for dementia, almost matched the combined costs of cancer, heart disease and stroke”.(Luengo-Fernandez et al. Dementia 2010. Alzheimer Research Trust)

Worldwide there are currently 40 million people living with dementia, and it is set to double every 20 years. We have to fight to cure it.

The organization I head, Nansen Neuroscience Network is set up to connect the best neuroscientists, neurologists, biopharma and investors so that we shorten the time we have to wait until we ideally find a cure, or improved treatments against dementia and other brain diseases. The best medical universities in Scandinavia are now collaborating, (Karolinska Institutet, University of Oslo, NTNU and others) to educate the next generation of medical researchers in how to increase innovation in the medical field.  We are setting up a School of Health Innovation, where PHDs and Post-doc researchers will learn and collaborate with biopharma and medtech companies with real innovation cases.

We also need politicians to step up and increase investment in research, and we need greater collaboration between neuroscientists, neurologists and biopharma. Furthermore, earlier patient access to innovative new treatments for patients.

Living a healthy lifestyle may help you delay onset of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and remember to:

– Eat healthy with less sugar and meat

– Exercise and stay active

– Learn new things, your brain also needs exercise

– Monitor your colesterol level and blood pressure

– Quit smoking

– Generally, what´s good for heart is also good for your brain

We need to learn from the collaboration that we see in the battle against cancer. I used to work as a CEO of Oslo Cancer Cluster, an organization set up to foster collaboration between the best cancer researchers, oncologists, biopharma and investors. Almost everyone wanted to collaborate, and we had support from politicians, media outlets, patient organizations, oncologists and researchers alike. With brain diseases, its more challenging, perhaps because the patients generally are older, and less vocal in the media, for obvious reasons. It´s hard to imagine a public rally of Parkinson or Alzheimer´s patients in front of Parliament like we have experienced by cancer patients.

What can you do to contribute in the fight against dementia and other brain diseases? Start by living and eating healthy, and remember what¨s good for your heart is also good for your brain. Furthermore, use your power as a voter and citizen to influence your local MP or member of Congress to care about and fund research and innovation in neuroscience. We have an obligation to care about all the patients and families affected by brain diseases.

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