The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment will double to 15 million by 2060, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition, researchers estimate that an estimated 6 million US adults are already living with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment. The study was published in the journal, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
While the estimates are based on a lot of speculation and previous data, it is the best forecast of how severe the disease will impact America. According to the NIH, scientists have tried to account for people who are not impaired by Alzheimer’s dementia but are in the early stages of the disease. The organization claims that people with possible evidence of preclinical Alzheimer’s are at an increased risk of developing the disease later on.
“The researchers say they factored those rates of transition in their multi-state model,” wrote the NIH in a press release “…the model can estimate the impact of some possible prevention efforts on the number of future cases.”
Researchers accounted for several factors when determining who was at risk of developing the disease. These included buildup of a protein in the brain called amyloid, the loss of brain cells, and the loss of memory and skills such as reading and writing.
They based their research on other studies including one that monitored over 1.500 volunteers who lived around the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. This included healthy people who posed no risk of developing the disease. Researchers also analyzed studies of people with mild cognitive impairment, memory loss, and people diagnosed with dementia.
Ron Brookmeyer, a biostatistician at the University of California, Los Angeles and his team of scientists crunched the numbers and estimate that approximately 46.7 American adults over the age of 30 are in the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Brookmeyer adds, however, that many of these people won’t progress to dementia during their lifetimes.
By 2060 they predict over 70 million will have preclinical Alzheimer’s. This means the disease won’t be developed enough in the person’s brain to be diagnosed properly.
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