An emeritus Professor and consultant Neurologist, Prof Arthur Onwuchekwa, has said early childhood education is key to preventing dementia later in life.
Onwuchekwa, a retiring professor, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Health Science, University of Port Harcourt, said this while delivering a valedictory lecture themed, ‘Working towards a healthy brain’, in Port Harcourt.
Onwuchekwa, who is also a consultant Physician Neurologist at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, said the brain is the most important organ of the body and the focus of every activity of the human being.
While describing dementia as a brain disorder, he said, “Once you have a healthy brain, you have a healthy body. The brain is the only organ that cannot be transplanted. “
He expressed fears that the rate of dementia may rise, saying, “We are seeing it now more than before. It is like an epidemic coming up; but age is a major risk factor for dementia (loss of memory).”
He listed some of the causes of dementia as hypertension, diabetes and consumption of junk food, saying, “People who are isolated, and lonely most of the time tend to have dementia due to lack of interaction with others because there is no stimulation of the brain.”
While stressing the need for education and health of the child, Onwuchekwa stated that, “Early childhood education is very important in reducing the prevalence of dementia.
“In fact, it has been found that those who attend school between the ages of five and 16 may delay their development of dementia or they may escape it.”
On how it can be prevented, he said the government should pay attention to building roads, providing electricity, setting up farms so that people can stay within their locality and return to stay with their aged ones and be interacting with them.
“And people should be doing exercise. When they exercise, it helps the brain to improve, because the muscles release some chemicals that work on the brain to make it active.
“But in Nigeria, from what UNECSO has said, Nigeria is the capital of out-of-school children. There are about 20 million out-of-school children. In fact, in the whole world, of every five out-of-school children, one is a Nigerian,” Onwuchekwa stated.
He expressed fears that the cases of dementia may rise if the rate of out-of-school children was anything to go by and if not checked.
The emeritus professor further said, “No state is exempt. When they are out of school, there is no mental stimulation. So, in future, we may have more cases of dementia.
“People should sleep well because lack of sleep can also lead to dementia. We also talk about eating healthy diets like vegetables, fruits and grains. Processed food is dangerous to the brain.
“We have people who come with many brain disorders, most of them preventable. The major brain disorders include stroke, which is the second most common cause of death worldwide.
“Stroke comes after heart disease and shares the same risk factors of hypertension, diabetes, you know high cholesterol level,” he stated.
The consultant neurologist noted that these were mostly prevented through lifestyle changes including exercises, more intake of natural food and periodic checking of ones’ blood pressure.