April 3, 2007
More than 5 million people in the United States are currently living with Alzheimer's disease, a 10 percent increase over previous estimates from five years ago. The vast majority of people with Alzheimer's, or 4.9 million, are seniors over the age of 65. A small number of younger men and women, between 200,000 and 500,000, are believed to be afflicted with the early-onset form of the disease. Those figures, from The Alzheimer's Association and researchers at Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, highlight the striking impact of an illness that afflicts more and more seniors across the United States, and around the world. Scientists estimate that someone in America develops Alzheimer's every 72 seconds. By the middle of this century, that number is expected to increase to a new case of Alzheimer's every 33 seconds unless a cure is found.
Advancing age remains the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's, with the disease striking 13 percent, or one in eight people 65 and over. That number increases to 42 percent for those older than 85. Today, with the advancing wave of 78 million baby boomers now hitting the 60-year mark, more and more elderly Americans will succumb to the disease as they enter their 60s, 70s, and beyond. By mid-century, the number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to grow to as many as 16 million, more than the current total population of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston combined.
Alzheimer's is now the seventh leading cause of death in the country, and the fifth leading cause for those over age 65. By 2030, the number of people with the disease could soar to 7.7 million, researchers estimate. While death rates from other major illnesses of aging, such as heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and stroke, have declined in recent years, Alzheimer's deaths continued to rise, increasing 33 percent between 2000 and 2004.
The costs associated with Alzheimer's also continue to escalate. The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer's and related forms of dementia now total more than $148 billion a year, researchers estimate. Medicare alone pays an average of $13,207 a year to beneficiaries with Alzheimer's, more than three times the average payment for other illnesses.
Those numbers do not include nursing home costs, which can average $75,000 per year, and the untold hours spent by caregivers and family members caring for a loved one who may live with the disease for 10 years or longer. These shocking numbers underline the pressing need for a cure for Alzheimer's. Currently, the five drugs approved to treat the disease have limited benefit for symptoms and do nothing to stop its relentless downward progression.
The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation funds vital research into the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease and the search for a cure. To learn more, visit www.ALZinfo.org.
2007 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, The Alzheimer's Association.