The number of people suffering dementia -- estimated to be in the tens of millions and growing rapidly -- amounts to a "ticking time bomb" that needs to be addressed before it is too late, according to a new study co-authored by the World Health Organization.

The study "Dementia: A Public Health Priority" estimates that a new case of dementia is diagnosed somewhere around the world every four seconds.

According to the report co-written by the World Health Organization and Alzheimer's Disease International, that adds up to approximately 7.7 million new cases of dementia being diagnosed each year.

From an estimated 35.6 million people living with dementia in 2010, the report anticipates that figure doubling to 65.7 million by 2030, on its way to 115.4 million in 2050.

In Canada, where an estimated 500,000 people were believed to be living with some form of dementia in 2010, the number of cases is expected to rise to 1.1 million by 2025.

The study quotes global health expert Dr. Peter Piot, who has called dementia a "ticking time bomb."

But it also notes that many governments aren't taking appropriate action, with Australia, Denmark, France, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom the only countries with a national strategy.

Considering that only eight WHO member nations have definitive plans to combat dementia, the CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada says the report should serve as a "wake up call."

In an interview with CTV's Canada AM Wednesday, Naguib Gouda said Canada needs to join the ranks of countries taking a co-ordinated approach to combatting this growing health concern.

"We need action now," he said, explaining that his organization has been pushing the federal government to adopt a national strategy for the past two years.

"It's basically time for the government to make it a priority and keep listening, but also take action," he said.

Earlier this year, in declaring that Alzheimer's is "one of the most-feared health conditions," the U.S. government announced its intention to find effective treatments for the disease by 2025.

In late March, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated his government's intention to double dementia research funding by 2015. And across the channel, France has had a national "Alzheimer Plan" since 2008.

Canada's federal government, meanwhile, has said it is taking action and pointed to its funding of the 2010 "Rising Tide" study which predicted huge costs related to dementia in the coming decades.

But Naguib said it's time to go further, suggesting Ottawa needs to come up with a national strategy that includes:

  • supporting the friends and relatives who become de facto caregivers for dementia patients
  • augmenting the professional health care workforce
  • increasing funding for dementia research
  • promoting early diagnosis and risk reduction
  • reducing the stigma associated with dementia

The term dementia refers to disorders of the brain which include loss of reasoning, judgment and memory.