Number of Cases Expected to Nearly Triple
It doesn't get as much attention as heart disease, cancer or HIV, but Alzheimer's disease might soon command the nation's attention. A new study in the journal Neurology predicts the number of Alzheimer's cases in the U.S. will nearly triple by 2050. The research conducted for the National Institute on Aging says the current number of about 5 million Alzheimer's patients will be 13.8 million by that time. The biggest reason for the increase is the aging U.S. population, which includes the Baby Boomer generation. Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease that primarily affects people as they age, taking away memory and personality.
Dr. Rachelle Doody is the director of the Alzheimer's Disease and Brain Disorder Center at Baylor College of Medicine. She tells KTRH the findings of the study are nothing new to the medical community, but they highlight just how big an issue Alzheimer’s is becoming. "There will be as many people with Alzheimer's disease in our country as there are (total) people in some countries," she says. Those numbers may help spur more attention and funding for Alzheimer's research. "We have to take it seriously and we have to advance prevention and treatment approaches as much as possible, starting now," says Dr. Doody. She notes that President Obama signed the National Alzheimer's Project Act last year, but since then the issue has gotten lost in all of the fiscal and budget battles taking place in Washington.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's, and Dr. Doody says finding one could take awhile because of the unique nature of the disease. "For conditions like Alzheimer's that are degenerative conditions tied to aging, we are not going to have magic bullet kind of treatments." But that is not to say there aren't ways to treat or reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. "We do have treatments for Alzheimer's disease and they are effective and they are helpful, and they help many people over a period of years," says Dr. Doody. She expects treatments and prevention measures will continue to improve, but predicts overall progress in fighting the disease will be "incremental."
Read the full progress report on Alzheimer's disease here.