Wednesday, March 19, 2008

10 Million US Baby Boomers Will Have Alzheimer's, Report

A new report released today by the Alzheimer's Association suggests that 10 million American baby boomers, that is one in every eight, will develop Alzheimer's in their lifetime. The report also estimates that as many as 5.2 million people are living with Alzheimer's in the United States, including up to 250,000 under the age of 65.

The report 2008 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures is published in the current online issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

The report is a "comprehensive statistical abstract of US data on Alzheimer's disease", giving facts and figures on disease prevalence, mortality, the costs of care and family caregiving. There is also special coverage on lifetime risk.

In the US, a person develops Alzheimer's every 71 seconds (set to be every 33 seconds by 2050), said the report, which places the disease as the seventh leading cause of death for all Americans, and the fifth leading cause for those over the age of 65.

The disease affects not only individuals but those around them; 70 per cent of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias live at home, and are looked after by family members and friends.

The total cost of Alzheimer's and other dementias, including direct (eg Medicare, Medicaid) and indirect (eg caregiver lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses, and decreased business productivity costs) is estimated to be more than 148 billion dollars a year.

This excludes the estimated 10 million caregivers who provide about 89 million dollars a year in upaid services to people with Alzheimer's.

According to a report in the Washington Post, Stephen McConnell, the Alzheimer's Association's vice president for advocacy and public policy, said while most of the cargivers are spouses, "there's evidence that 250,000 of these caregivers are children 8 to 18".

"So you get the sense of an expanded circle of people who are affected by this disease. It's not just the person with the disease. It's not just their immediate caregiver: it's the children and grandchildren," said McConnell.

The reports estimated that 14 per cent of all Americans over the age of 71 have Alzheimer's: it affects 16 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men.

There were 411,000 new cases of Alzheimer's diagnosed in the US in the year 2000. This figure is estimated to grow to 454,000 new cases a year by 2010, and by 2050, it will have increased to 959,000 Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's every year, said the report, which estimates the total prevalence will be in the region of 11 to 16 million persons by then.

The second most common form of dementia is vascular dementia, caused by vascular lesions in the brain, usually from strokes.

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia, responsible for 60 to 80 per cent of cases in the US.

The disease has no cure, and the only treatment is drugs that slow it down for a short time. Alzheimer's begins with mild memory loss and confusion but gradually develops into complete memory loss and inability to take care of oneself.

The causes of Alzheimer's are not clear. It is characterized by increasing brain atrophy caused by a gradual build up of amyloid protein plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that destroy neurons and synapses.

Although some doctors are concerned that there won't be enough trained medical professionals to deal with the growth in Alzheimer's patients when the baby boomers start to get it, there are those who think the projections in the report could be too high.

Director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, Dr Gary Kennedy, told the Washington Post he thought that because baby boomers were healthier, more active, better educated and better off than their parents, this may slow the disease down sufficiently that it won't affect them until the end of their natural life.

Also, new medications are helping to manage the disease more effectively, said Kennedy.

"2008 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures."
Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's & Dementia, 4 (2008) 110-133.
DOI:10.1016/j.jalz.2008.02.005
Published online March 2008.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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