A recent major analysis conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has revealed that conditions affecting the nervous system have surpassed heart disease to become the leading cause of ill health worldwide. The study, led by Jaimie Steinmetz, highlights that more than 3.4 billion people globally experienced a neurological condition in 2021, accounting for 43 percent of the global population. This surge in neurological conditions, such as strokes, migraines, and dementia, has seen a significant increase of 59 percent over the last three decades.

The researchers examined how 37 different neurological conditions impacted ill health, disability, and premature death across 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2021. The analysis calculated Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost to each condition, revealing that over 443 million years of healthy life were lost to nervous system disorders globally in 2021. This staggering number represents an 18-percent increase from 1990, emphasizing the growing burden of neurological conditions on global health.

Among the neurological conditions analyzed, strokes emerged as the worst, accounting for 160 million years of healthy life lost. This was followed by neonatal encephalopathy, migraine, dementia, nerve damage from diabetes, meningitis, and epilepsy. The reclassification of stroke as a neurological condition by the World Health Organization played a significant role in these conditions surpassing cardiovascular disease in the analysis.

The study also noted that a significant portion of healthy years lost to neurological conditions affected children under five, particularly due to factors like trauma during birth, neonatal encephalopathy, asphyxia, and meningitis. Children accounted for nearly a fifth of all healthy years lost, underscoring the profound impact of neurological conditions on the younger population. Moreover, the analysis highlighted the growing burden on health systems globally as these conditions continue to rise.

While most neurological conditions have no cure, there are measures that can be taken to mitigate risks, including reducing high blood pressure, diabetes, and alcohol consumption. The researchers emphasized the need for enhanced efforts in prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of these disorders, particularly in resource-limited settings. The rising neurological burden is projected to increase pressure on health systems in the future, necessitating proactive interventions to address this growing global health concern.

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