Report: Alzheimer’s Cases Could Triple By 2050

In the not-too-distant future, Alzheimer’s will likely get very personal for many more of us as the nation confronts an “epidemic” of the progressive brain disease, according to a new report based on 2010 census data. Cases of Alzheimer’s could nearly triple over the next 40 years, researchers say.

Here’s USA Today on the study, just published online in the journal Neurology:

Numbers are projected to rise from about 5 million now to 13.8 million. The disease robs people of their memory, erases personality and makes even routine tasks like dressing and bathing impossible.

Ann Gordon/flickr

Ann Gordon/flickr

“We’re going to need coordinated efforts for this upcoming epidemic,” says lead author Jennifer Weuve, assistant professor of medicine at Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago. “People have trouble getting their heads around these numbers, but imagine if everyone in the state of Illinois (population 12.8 million) had Alzheimer’s. I look around Chicago and can’t imagine it…”

Researchers analyzed information from 10,802 black and white Chicago residents, ages 65 and older, from 1993 to 2011. Participants were interviewed and assessed for dementia every three years. Age, race and level of education were factored into the research. The projections are similar to a study done 10 years ago but include new data from the 2010 Census about death rates and future population rates. An upcoming study will examine the effect on health care costs, which are expected to exceed $2 trillion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association…

The three-fold increase is largely the result of the aging Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. The main risk for Alzheimer’s is age. The population of people 65 and older is expected to more than double from 40.3 million to 88.5 million, according to the 2010 Census.

The LA Times offers this perspective:

The risk of developing the disease rises with age. So while deaths from breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, stroke and HIV all fell between 2000 and 2008, the number of Alzheimer’s-related deaths grew by two-thirds in the same period — a macabre result of people living longer than ever before.

Doctors, researchers and public health experts are already bracing for an onslaught of new patients by developing drugs and preparing caregivers for the emotional and physical stress.

“This is an issue that’s going to touch each of us personally or someone that we know and care about,” said Lora Connolly, director of the California Department of Aging, which expects to be serving as many as 1.2 million patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia in the state by 2030. “It won’t happen overnight, but the pressure will continue to mount.”

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