Miguel Ángel Celis
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Greater Attention Needed for Mental Diseases in All Ages

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 18:11

Q: What are the main neurological diseases affecting the Mexican population?

A: Mexico’s healthcare system faces the challenge of dealing with more complex diseases. The main neurological ailments affecting Mexicans are related to aging. Mexico’s population changed due to a smaller number of births and a growing survival rate. During the 1960s, life expectancy was 57 years. By 2016, life expectancy had grown to 75.2 years thanks to better sanitation and a decrease in child and maternal mortality.

Today, Mexico’s main mortality causes for adults over 60 years of age are related to cardiovascular diseases, which are heavily linked to strokes. For every three deaths from myocardial infarction, there is one from stroke. Aging also causes cognitive deterioration and may lead to mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s, a degenerative condition that will become increasingly common as the population ages. While not lethal, Alzheimer’s has significant repercussions for a patient’s and their family’s quality of life.
Epilepsy affects nearly 2 percent of the Mexican population. Its incidence and prevalence may be higher than in well developed countries due to endemic infections like neurocysticercosis, higher incidence of injuries related to motor vehicle accidents and birth, as well as lack of access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Epilepsy is also associated to physical and psychological comorbidities, affecting education and working abilities. Poor control of the disease can lead to premature deaths either by status epilepticus, unintentional injuries or suicide.

Meanwhile, the most common mental health disorder among young individuals is depression, which is the most common disease worldwide and causes the highest number of work absences. Depression reduces productivity and leads people to withdraw from society. It also places a significant toll on families and society. Depression sometimes even leads to suicide.

Q: How is the institute contributing to the collective knowledge regarding mental diseases?

A: The institute actively researches the many factors influencing the aging process of the nervous system and the consequences of a slowdown in communication among neurons. We are studying the long-term effects of air, water and soil pollution in neural networks and premature cell death, also known as apoptosis. The institute also performs basic research and one of our main lines is autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. When an infection occurs, the body generates antibodies to fight it and information on the pathogen is stored by the immunological system. However, the system can make mistakes and damage the host’s cells.

Multiple sclerosis is the most non-traumatic disabling disease affecting young adults. Moreover, we are seeing an increase in the prevalence of this disease. Pharmaceutical companies developed many treatments that control the disease, as there is no cure, but these medications are highly expensive and public health institutions are facing a challenge in affording them.

Q: Why should doctors choose the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery Manuel Velasco Suárez to complete their specialization?

A: The best neurologists in Mexico are trained at this one-of-a-kind institute. Doctors want to complete their specialization here as the institute has a large number of patients. We receive many interested doctors from both public and private institutions in Mexico and abroad. About 25 percent of our residents come from Central and South America. Our goal is to compete with the best institutions in the US. Every year, 100 specialists in neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry graduate from the institute.