Minister for Health and Social Development Carvin Malone said there is evidence that shows that there are 'potentially modifiable risk factors' for the mental disease coming from the 2017 Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care.
He said these consist of less education, hypertension, hearing impairment, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, low social contact, excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution.
"Together, the 12 modifiable risk factors account for around 40% of worldwide dementias, which consequently could theoretically be prevented or delayed. These modifiable risk factors are areas of focus by the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the Government of the Virgin Islands under the Complete Health Improvement Programme (CHIP) project which is part of the Government's 10-year Non-Communicable Disease Strategy: "Towards a Healthier Virgin Islands," he said via a statement on September 1.
He stated that CHIP is a community-based educational strategy that takes a holistic health approach that is designed to prevent, arrest and reverse chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart diseases; identified as some modifiable risk factors for dementia.
"As a Territory, we need to decrease the growing numbers of Alzheimer's/dementia cases. Dementia knows no social, economic or geographical boundaries. Although each person will experience dementia in their own way, eventually those affected are unable to care for themselves and need help with all aspects of daily life. There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, but treatments, advice, and support are available," he continued.
He added that his Ministry's objective is to provide a clear, national focus and attention on Alzheimer's that has been given to other diseases.
"We are, therefore encouraging the entire community to understand the importance of recognising dementia as a disease and challenging the stigma that surrounds the condition. I also encourage organisations and individuals everywhere to get involved with the events of the Virgin Islands Alzheimer's Association," he remarked.
In the meantime, Malone said his ministry would be targeting stigma and fear of the disease.
He said, "The impact of the Alzheimer's movement is growing within the Virgin Islands, but the stigmatisation, misinformation, fear, and denial that surround Alzheimer's and other dementia continue to be a major concern."
Some of the symptoms of dementia, which is a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes affecting the behaviour, memory, emotion and the like, include memory loss, difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying, difficulty in performing previously routine tasks and personality and mood changes.
"Globally, every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. In the BVI, we do not have any hard data; however, we are aware that the numbers of persons with some form of dementia are increasing," he said.
In the territory, the Virgin Islands Alzheimer's Association will be hosting online events to observe the month under the theme "See The Person Not the Disease".
The month is coordinated by the Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) to shine the spotlight on the disease which is now present in 50 million people worldwide.