Dementia is a syndrome characterized by a decline in cognitive function (i.e., the ability to process thought) that goes beyond what would be expected to result from biological aging. Memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgment are all affected. The state of consciousness is unaffected. Changes in mood, emotional control, behavior, or motivation are frequently associated with and occasionally precede cognitive impairment.

Dementia is caused by a range of diseases and disorders that damage the brain directly or indirectly, such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke, per the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to a WHO report released on Thursday, Sept. 2, the number of people with dementia globally is expected to reach 78 million by 2030. That’s a 40% increase over the current global estimate of those affected by the neurological disorder. And as populations age, the number of people with dementia is anticipated to increase to 139 million by 2050, New York Post reported.

“Dementia robs millions of people of their memories, independence and dignity, but it also robs the rest of us of the people we know and love,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

“The world is failing people with dementia, and that hurts all of us,” he said.

Health ministers agreed on a worldwide action plan in 2015, which included early diagnosis and care, but are falling short of fulfilling targets by 2025, Reuters reported.

“Dementia truly is a global public health concern and not just in high-income countries. In fact, over 60% of people with dementia live in low- and middle-income countries,” Katrin Seeher, an expert in WHO’s department of mental health, told a news briefing.

Even though there is no cure, dementia is not an unavoidable result of aging, the WHO said. Numerous studies have indicated that remaining physically active, avoiding smoking, drinking moderately, and eating a good diet can minimize getting it.

“These are the things that we can do to promote our brain health and decrease the cognitive decline and the risk for dementia. These are things that can be started at a younger age,” said WHO expert Tarun Dua.

The predicted increase in dementia cases will have significant social and economic consequences. The overall global social cost of dementia was expected to be $1.3 trillion in 2019. As the number of people living with dementia and care costs increases, these costs are estimated to reach approximately $3 trillion by 2030.