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Nearly 14 Million Americans Will Have Alzheimer’s Disease by 2060

Almost 14 million Americans aged 65 and older will have Alzheimer’s disease or related forms dementia by 2060 unless effective new therapies are found, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The projections underscore the need for new research into the underlying causes of the disease so that new treatments can be developed to cure, prevent or slow the course of the illness.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the fifth leading cause of deaths among Americans 65 and older. It is estimated that about 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. More than a million more have mild cognitive impairment, a form of brain impairment that often precedes full-blown Alzheimer’s.

Current drugs to treat Alzheimer’s may ease the memory and thinking problems that are a hallmark of the illness for a time. But they do nothing to stop the relentless downward progression of the disease. More effective treatments for Alzheimer’s and treatments that curb or modify the course of disease are urgently needed.

Estimates vary on the number of Americans who will develop Alzheimer’s in the coming decades. That’s because nobody knows for sure who will ultimately get the disease. Research is urgently needed to better understand the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s and, one day, to find a cure for the disease.

To arrive at these recent estimates, researchers reviewed Medicare claims along with data form the U.S. Census Bureau. They estimated that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias would rise as the population ages, from 1.6 percent of the population today to 3.3 percent in 2060. By 2060, more than 72 million Americans will be 65 or older. They project that 13.9 million of them will get a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease by that year. The rate is projected to be particularly high in Hispanics and Blacks.

“It is critical that older adults who are exhibiting symptoms of memory loss or cognitive decline seek an assessment and potential diagnosis from a health-care provider,” the researchers say. Early diagnosis allows for better planning for families and patients. Drugs may also be most effective early in the course of the disease, before damage to the brain has become extensive, experts believe.

The report also calls attention to the growing burden for family members and other young adults who will serve as caregivers to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, they note, given population trends, there are seven potential young adult caregivers for each older person with Alzheimer’s disease. That number will decrease to one in four by 2060, they estimate.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can lead to work disruptions, family disruptions and financial challenges. Caregivers also face an increased risk of stress, depression and other health problems. Better support is needed for those caring for someone with the disease. And new, more effective treatments and strategies are needed to curb the growing burden of Alzheimer’s disease overall.

By 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: Kevin A. Matthews, Wei Xu, Anne H. Gaglioti, et al: “Racial and ethnic estimates of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in the United States (2015–2060) in adults aged 65 years or older.” Alzheimer’s and Dementia, September 2018.

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