top of page
  • Writer's pictureWGON

More Than a Third of Global Population Have Neurological Disorder: Study

About 3 billion people worldwide were living with a neurological condition in 2021, according to recent research, revealing a growing global health crisis.

The findings from an analysis shine a light on the toll these disorders—from autism and migraine to stroke and dementia—take on individuals, families, and communities.

18 Percent Spike in Years Lost Due to Neurological Conditions

Various forms of neurological conditions have become leading causes of poor health and disability globally, with an 18 percent increase in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) between 1990 and 2021, according to the study published in The Lancet Neurology.

The researchers, who were funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also found a stark disparity: More than 80 percent of neurological deaths and health loss occur in low- and middle-income countries, highlighting unequal access to treatment and care compared to high-income nations.

There is an urgent need for targeted interventions to address this growing neurological burden and ensure those affected have access to quality care, treatment, and rehabilitation, according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization. “This study should serve as an urgent call to action to scale up targeted interventions to allow the growing number of people living with neurological conditions to access the quality care, treatment and rehabilitation they need,” he said in a press release.

Among the top 10 neurological conditions contributing to deteriorating health identified by the 2021 data were stroke, dementia, migraine, and autism spectrum disorder.

What’s Driving the Increase in Neurological Conditions?

A complex web of factors drives the growing global burden of brain and nerve disorders.

Skyrocketing Diabetic Neuropathy Cases

Data also point to a rapid increase in diabetic neuropathy cases, which have more than tripled globally since 1990 to over 206 million cases in 2021, in line with the rise in diabetes worldwide, according to the study.

Diabetic neuropathy, a condition involving nerve damage more common in the legs and feet, is not only caused by chronic or long-term diabetes but, more frequently, by uncontrolled diabetes.

“It can lead to weakness, pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the affected extremities, which can be very debilitating for day-to-day activities,” Dr. Hai Hoang, a neurologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York who was not associated with the study, explained to The Epoch Times.

COVID-19 Neurological Impact

The study also highlighted how emerging conditions, such as neurological complications from COVID-19, contributed to the overall burden of neurological disorders.

Researchers examined the effect of modifiable risk factors for preventable neurological conditions. Over half of strokes happen because people have high blood pressure, according to the study. Other things affecting the brain, like memory loss, smoking, and high blood sugar, were prominent causes, too. For some brain seizures, drinking too much alcohol was a major reason. And for kids who have a hard time learning, lead exposure was the main contributor.

Obesity Contributing to Rise in Nerve Damage: Expert

Rising obesity rates have played a role in the increase of neurological diseases, Dr. Hoang said.

Obesity’s main contribution is through its common complications like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

“Through these medical problems, the risk of strokes, neuropathy, and other debilitating conditions are increased,” he noted.

However, Dr. John Littell, a board-certified family physician in Florida, downplayed the role obesity might play in the increased dementia rates. In his patients with dementia, obesity “rarely” is a factor. But autistic children tend to have higher rates of obesity compared to non-autistic children, he added.

Neurological Conditions Show Distinct Age Patterns: Expert

While the study examined a broad sampling of the population, it involved very different neurological conditions depending on the age group affected, Dr. Littell told The Epoch Times.

“If you divide it up into populations, clearly the most alarming thing in the population below the age of 10 or 15 is autism,” he said. “Absolutely, bar none, that’s got to be No. 1 in children.”

For older people, Dr. Littell said it’s “a toss-up” between Parkinson’s disease and dementia or other cerebrovascular diseases. “That seems to be popping up a lot more in my 35 years of experience,” he added.

The Vaccine Connection

Another factor at play contributing to neurological conditions in both age groups is the vaccine connection, Dr. Littell said.

“The overwhelming number of vaccines in children and the overwhelming number of vaccines in adults, and especially in the elderly, and whether or not there may be some disruption of the normal developmental pathways in children is a significant issue,” he said.

With more recently developed vaccines, like the one for COVID-19, Dr. Littell said he has observed an increased incidence of microangiopathy—a condition involving small blood vessel damage in vital organs, including the brain. This was the case regardless of the study findings, which were based on on data from before the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine rollout.

The condition can cause very small blood clots (microthromboses) in the brain, which can impair the delivery of oxygen-rich blood to the memory center and other brain regions, he added.

Some research has found instances of people getting microthromboses in the brain related to microangiopathy. Other studies have found that COVID-19 is linked to a higher risk of microangiopathy than the vaccines and that occurrences in both are rare.

Generally, nervous system disorders are some of the most common adverse events reported after COVID-19 vaccination, according to Pfizer and Moderna trials. The spike proteins found in the virus have structural features resembling proteins in the human nervous system, so when the body’s immune response targets the viral spike proteins, it may inadvertently also damage nerve cells.

“I think that [the vaccine is] really contributing, in my opinion, to some of the dementia or other degenerative diseases of the brain,” Dr. Littell said.

5 views0 comments


bottom of page