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Alzheimer’s Rates Could Double in Coming Decades

It is estimated that more than 9.3 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2060 if effective treatments are not found. Another 5.7 million will have mild cognitive impairment, a serious form of memory loss that often precedes Alzheimer’s. That represents more than double the more than 6 million Americans who currently have Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment.

Those estimates come from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health. The findings underscore the urgent need for new and more effective treatments to curb the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s.

The researchers also note that many more Americans have signs of brain changes that put them on the course to develop Alzheimer’s disease one day. Many of them will die before they actually develop full-blown Alzheimer’s.

“There are about 47 million people in the U.S. today who have some evidence of either a build-up of protein fragments called beta-amyloid or neurodegeneration of the brain but don’t yet have symptoms,” said Ron Brookmeyer, a professor of biostatistics at UCLA and the study’s lead author. Although many of these people will not develop full-fledged Alzheimer’s disease, there is a pressing need for robust and reliable ways “to identify which persons will progress to clinical symptoms, and develop interventions for them that could slow the progression of the disease, if not stop it all together.”

The researchers estimate that by 2060, about 4 million of those with Alzheimer’s will require intensive care in a nursing home or other facility. The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

“Estimates by disease state and severity are important because the resources needed to care for patients vary so much over the course of the illness,” Dr. Brookmeyer said.

Current drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s may ease symptoms for a time but do nothing to stop the relentless downward progression of disease. More research is needed to better understand the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s so that more effective treatments, or even a cure, can be found.

By www.ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.

Source: Ron Brookmeyer, Nada Abdalla, Caludia H. Kawas, Maria M. Corrada: “Forecasting the Prevalence of Preclinical and Clinical Alzheimer’s Disease in the United States.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia, December 2017.

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