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Impact of Alzheimer’s in the US to double by 2060

By Peter DiMaria

The burden of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia is expected to double by 2060, according to a recent study from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

In 2014, 5 million people were victim of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, accounting then for 1.6 percent of the U.S. population—319 million people. This burden is projected to grow to 13.9 million people, nearly 3.3 percent of the population in 2060– projected to reach 417 million people.

The study, published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, is the first to forecast Alzheimer’s disease by race and ethnicity. CDC researchers predict that Hispanic Americans will have the largest projected increase in people affected, due to population growth over the projection period. However, because of the relative size of the population, non-Hispanic Caucasians will still have the largest total number of Alzheimer’s cases.

“This study shows that as the U.S. population increases, the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will rise, especially among minority populations,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D, in a statement released by the federal government’s center. “Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with the loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future.”

Racial disparities

Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth most common cause of death for Americans ages 65 years and older. It is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and, eventually, a person’s ability to perform even the simplest tasks, such as bathing, feeding, and dressing.

In the study, CDC researchers estimated the number of people with Alzheimer’s by age, sex, race and ethnicity in 2014 and 2060 based on population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau and percentages of Medicare Fee-for-Service beneficiaries ages 65 years and older with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Key findings

Among people ages 65 and older, African Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (13.8 percent), followed by Hispanics (12.2 percent), and non-Hispanic whites (10.3 percent), American Indian and Alaska Natives (9.1 percent), and Asian and Pacific Islanders (8.4 percent).

By 2060, the researchers estimate there will be 3.2 million Hispanics and 2.2 million African Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The increases are a result of fewer people dying from other chronic diseases and surviving into older adulthood when the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias increases.

Caregivers

The report also addresses the need to provide support to family caregivers of persons living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias because an early diagnosis can help caregivers plan for the life-changing experience of caring for a friend or family member with these conditions, which can also impact the caregiver’s health and well-being.

It is important for people who think their daily lives are impacted by memory loss to discuss these concerns with a health care provider. An early assessment and diagnosis is key to planning for their health care needs, including long-term services and supports, as the disease progresses. It is also fundamental for caregivers to search for resources and help when they feel overwhelmed with the burden of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's. 

The CDC has a crucial role in understanding and finding ways to improve the lives of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and their families. They collect, analyze, and disseminate data on cognitive decline and caregiving to guide public health action. The CDC also promotes awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, including the importance of early assessment and diagnosis. Finally, the CDC collaborates with partners to develop, promote, and disseminate effective strategies to train health care workers about early signs of dementia despite cultural differences.

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