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Ministry unveils measures to fight Alzheimer’s disease

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Published : 2014-06-24 21:07
Updated : 2014-06-24 21:07

As drinking and physical inactivity are considered some of the major risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, the Health Ministry is coming up with preventative measures including banning on-campus drinking and alcohol commercials on TV and radio from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia, is considered a threat to South Korea ― one of the heaviest-drinking countries in the world ― and its future economy. The Health Ministry expects that the number of those with Alzheimer’s disease will exceed the number of those who are aged 65 or older by the year 2024.

The authorities also predict that it will cost some 43.6 trillion won ($43.1 billion) to treat the patients by the year 2030. Last year, some 570,000 people suffered from the disease, resulting in medical costs of 11.7 trillion won.

Excessive consumption of alcohol is closely linked to the development of the disease. According to the ministry, a heavy drinker is 7.42 times more likely than a person who does not drink to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

South Korea is notorious for its culture of binge drinking. In a recent report released by Euromonitor, a London-based market intelligence firm, South Koreans were said to drink 13.7 shots of liquor per week on average. This makes them the heaviest drinkers in the world, beating Russians and Thais, according to the study. In 2011, the health expenditures from alcohol-related diseases totaled 2.43 trillion won in South Korea, which made up 6.5 percent of all medical expenditures here.

In order to discourage the public from drinking, the ministry is planning to ban alcohol sales and drinking at universities and youth institutions, as well as alcohol ads on public transportation and outdoor properties. The ministry also plans to ban alcohol commercials on TV and radio from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The ministry also plans to provide workout programs for the elderly, as a lack of exercise is known to be a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Physical inactivity contributed to 13 percent of worldwide cases of the disease, according to the ministry.

The ministry also announced that those who live alone are 2.9 times more likely to develop the disease than those who live with a spouse. “We are planning to provide more care services for the elderly who live alone,” said a ministry official.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)

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