The aging of the Brazilian population is a well-recognized fact: according to the World Health and Aging Report, produced by the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people over 60 years of age in Brazil is expected to grow much faster than the international average. By 2050, the volume of elderly people in the world is expected to double, while, here, it shall almost triple. The current percentage, of 12.5% of elders within the total population, is expected to reach 30% by the middle of the century.
According to neurologist Daniel Paes, a full member at the Brazilian Academy of Neurology, "as population ages, problems such as stroke, epilepsy, dementia (Alzheimer's disease) and neoplasms (tumors), which are more common in people over 60 years of age, will also have higher incidence". Paes explains that the system of care for the treatment of any disease ranges from primary prevention, diagnosis, treatment of the acute phase, treatment of the chronic phase, to rehabilitation.
Although Brazil is currently an aging country, with high incidence of chronic diseases, the most common gateway for the elderly in the health system is still the hospital, when the chronic disease already exists. According to Célia Caldas, a nurse with postdoctoral work in Gerontology, "it is necessary to establish a network model that focuses on early identification of risk and offers educational approaches with social support, to slow the person's weakening process". Célia is the deputy director at the Open University for Studies on the Elderly [UnATI], belonging to the Rio de Janeiro State University [Uerj].
The elderly should be fully evaluated by professionals able to identify their needs in a multidimensional way. Therefore, after entering the health network, it is important that the elderly be referred to a Reference Center in Geriatrics, with the capacity to offer comprehensive and cross-specialist care.
Regarding primary prevention related to chronic neurological diseases, the expert says it is important to prevent high blood pressure, especially in middle-aged individuals, prevent diabetes, high cholesterol and depressive symptoms.
In the specific case of dementias, Caldas states that the best forms of prevention are: practicing physical activities, cognitive stimulation, learning new skills and abilities, participating in mentally challenging leisure activities, active social life, a diet low on saturated fat and no smoking.
The country's health model should contemplate an increase in the flow of education and health promotion actions, in order to provide quality of life for the population, always aiming to postpone the disease and increase longevity.