Number of people with Alzheimer's rising

November 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Some 13.2 million older Americans will have Alzheimer's disease by 2050 according to new projections.

Some 13.2 million older Americans will have Alzheimer's disease by 2050 unless new ways are found to prevent or treat the disease, according to projections appearing in the Archives of Neurology (vol. 60, no. 8). According to these estimates, the number of older people with Alzheimer's - currently at 4.5 million - will grow dramatically as the population ages. The most notable increases will occur among those 85 and older, as 8 million people in that age group may have the disease by mid-century.

Frightening projections

The estimates were derived from a study of the number of new cases of Alzheimer's per year over four years among 3,913 people age 65 and older in Chicago. The researchers calculated the national prevalence of Alzheimer's (the number of people at any particular time who have the disease) using population projections from the national census and death rates from the National Center for Health Statistics.

In 2000, 7% of those with Alzheimer's were age 65 to 74, 53% were age 75 to 84 and 40% were age 85 or older. By 2050, it is projected that 60% of people with Alzheimer's will be 85 or older.

In 2000, among people age 65 to 74, 17% of Alzheimer's cases were classified as severe, compared with 20% among people 75 to 84 and 28% among those age 85 or older.

"Declines in death rates after age 65 mean that more people will survive to the oldest ages, where risk of AD is greatest," said Dennis A. Evans, a co-author of the report. "These numbers validate the current thinking that we must do what we can as early as possible in the disease process, prior to advanced age, if we are to head off these very high rates of AD in the future."

Over a decade ago, Evans and colleagues estimated the national prevalence of Alzheimer's, based on an East Boston, MA, population study. The new estimates are similar to those earlier findings. PR

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