Moving Beyond the Shadow of Alzheimer’s Disease

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Moving Beyond the Shadow of Alzheimer’s Disease

A century ago, small pox, polio, and almost any form of cancer was a deadly and incurable threat.  Today. for all practical purposes, small pox and polio are extinct, while a growing list of cancers are preventable and treatable. But meanwhile, Alzheimer’s disease, has replaced these as a source of fear for an aging global population.

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common cause of dementia.  The characteristic symptoms of dementia are difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving and other cognitive skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.  These difficulties occur because neurons in parts of the brain involved in cognitive function have been damaged or destroyed.  In Alzheimer’s disease, neurons in other parts of the brain are eventually damaged or destroyed as well, including those that enable a person to carry out basic bodily functions such as walking and swallowing.  People in the final stages of the disease are bed-bound and require around-the-clock care. And, ultimately, Alzheimer’s disease is fatal.

Worldwide, at least 44 millionpeople have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. But the precise number is difficult to assess because only 1-in-4 people with Alzheimer’s disease have been diagnosed. 

In the United States the number of Alzheimer’s victims is estimated at around 5.5 million. It is the 6th leading cause of deathin the United States and is the only one of the 10 leading causes of death that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed.  10% of Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’sand one-third of Americans over age 85are afflicted with the illness.

There was an 89% increase in deaths due to Alzheimer’sbetween 2000 and 2014. And as of 2017, someone in the United States developed Alzheimer’s every 66 seconds. 

Between 2017 and 2025 every state is expected to see at least a 14% rise in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s.  And by 2050, it’s estimated there will be as many as 16 million Americansliving with Alzheimer’s unless we discover a way to cure, prevent or slow the disease. 

And the crisis will only grow as American’s age.  In 2031, when the first wave of baby boomers reaches age 85, it is projected that more than 3 million people age 85 and older will have Alzheimer’s.  Worse yet, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer's dementia is projected to increase to 11.6 million by 2040 and about 7 million of those will be 85 years or older. 

Typical life expectancy after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is 4-to-8 years. 

Obviously, the human suffering for victims and their families is enormous; but so are the economic costs...

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