And because nine of 10 people with dementia in low- and middle-income countries and half of those in high-income countries are not diagnosed, the global number of people diagnosed is expected to triple by 2050. “What is driving … 1 killer of …and more .
Every 66 seconds this year, an American will develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association annual report, released Tuesday.
By the year 2050, that number is expected to double to one every 33 seconds. That means, says the report, that by the middle of the century, over half of all Americans 65 and older will have Alzheimer’s.
Those startling statistics are mirrored worldwide. In 2016, the World Alzheimer’s Report estimated that 47 million people around the globe had dementia. To put that in perspective, it’s a bit more than the current population of Spain.
And because nine of 10 people with dementia in low- and middle-income countries and half of those in high-income countries are not diagnosed, the global number of people diagnosed is expected to triple by 2050.
“What is driving these numbers is that there is no disease modifying treatment, no prevention and no cure,” said Ruth Drew, director of family and information services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “And while U.S. deaths from Alzheimer’s have doubled in the last 15 years, an increase of 89%, deaths from other major diseases have been declining.”
For example, said Drew, deaths from heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans, have declined by 14% over the same period while HIV deaths have dropped by 54%, stroke deaths by 21% and prostate cancer deaths by 9%.
“Other diseases have declined because of significant investments in research that produce treatments and techniques to reduce risk, sometimes even a cure,” Drew said.
“The issue is mainly funding,” agreed Rudy Tanzi, a Harvard professor of neurology who also heads up MassGeneral’s Genetics and Aging Research Unit. “We are a knowledge-rich yet budget-constrained field. We have many clues about how to stop Alzheimer’s, especially from recent genetic studies, but insufficient funds to explore how.”
Experts point out that without additional funding and a breakthrough, Alzheimer’s could be the disease that breaks the nation’s health care bank. In 2017, for the first time, total costs for caring for those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias hit $259 billion — over a quarter of a trillion dollars.
“Already, Alzheimer’s consumes one in every five Medicare/Medicaid dollars,” Tanzi said. “With 71 million baby boomers headed toward risk age, this will go to one in three, perhaps in the next decade, at which point Alzheimer’s will single-handedly collapse Medicare/Medicaid.”
“It will also impact the work force and our economy,” Drew added. “Because every family affected will be making caregiving choices they will have at home. They will be absent more for doctor visits … and other caregiving duties.”
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