Climate Change And Dementia In Singapore: A Growing Concern

Climate Change And Dementia In Singapore: A Growing Concern

Dementia In Singapore

Dementia is a significant public health issue in Singapore, with the number of individuals affected by this debilitating condition expected to rise dramatically in the coming years. According to Dementia Singapore, there are currently about 100,000 people living with dementia in Singapore, and this number is projected to increase to 152,000 by 2030. As the population ages, understanding the various factors that could exacerbate dementia becomes increasingly crucial.

The Link Between Climate Change and Dementia

According to an article by the Straits Times, research has highlighted an alarming connection between climate change and neurological diseases, including dementia. In a study released on May 15, 2024, by University College London (UCL), researchers analysed neuroscience literature to explore how extreme heat and climate change-related disasters impact key neurological diseases and mental health disorders.

The study revealed that environmental factors not only affect the prevalence of neurological diseases but also heighten the risk of hospital admission, disability, and even death. Professor Sanjay Sisodiya from UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, who led the research, emphasised that “in order to work properly, the brain has to be maintained within a relatively narrow temperature range. If the brain has a disease, then the brain’s ability to thermoregulate is compromised.”

Effects Of Extreme Heat To Brain Health

1. Struggle In Making Adaptive Choices

One of the key findings of the study is that individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia struggle to make adaptive choices in extreme heat, such as seeking assistance, wearing lighter clothing, and drinking more water. This inability to adapt increases their vulnerability to the adverse effects of high temperatures.

2. Increase Risk Of Stroke And Epilepsy

The study also found that hotter weather is likely to lead to more fatal or disabling strokes and can impact epilepsy, which is exacerbated by sleep deprivation. High nighttime temperatures, a hallmark of climate change, can disrupt sleep patterns, further affecting individuals with neurological conditions.

3. Mental Health Disorders

The incidence of mental health disorders, along with hospitalisation and risk of death, were strongly associated with increased ambient temperatures. Extreme weather events such as storms and wildfires can trigger acute cases of anxiety, post-traumatic stress, depression, and suicidal ideation. The brain’s response to a warming climate can cause damage that goes undetected until long after medical intervention would be effective.

The Need For More Research And Policy Intervention

As climate change continues to pose a threat to neurological health, experts like Prof Sisodiya and Dr. Burcin Ikiz call for more research and policy intervention to mitigate the economic toll on individuals and public health systems, particularly in poorer countries. Dr Ikiz, founder and chair of the International Neuro Climate Working Group, stressed the urgency of addressing this issue: “What scares me most about this scenario is that by 2050, not only will we see an explosion of people with neurological disorders, but it will happen in our 40s and 50s instead of 70s and 80s because our brains are bombarded by different stresses like heat, pollution, and microplastics.”

Steps To Mitigate The Effects Of Extreme Heat

In light of these findings, it is crucial for individuals and communities to take steps to guard against the effects of extreme heat. Prof Sisodiya advises that we need to “stop burning fossil fuels, stop putting emissions into the air. Beyond that, we can make sure that weather alerts are appropriate and informative, and that people know to take simple measures like staying out of the sun during peak hours, keeping windows or shutters closed, using things to keep cool and hydrated, and having an adequate supply of medication.”

Key Takeaway

As Singapore faces another round of record-breaking summer heat, the link between climate change and dementia cannot be ignored. It is imperative for individuals and policymakers to take proactive measures to protect brain health in the face of rising temperatures. 

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This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.