The number of people with Alzheimer's disease is expected to triple in the next 40 years, according to a new study published in the February 6, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
"This increase is due to an aging baby boom generation. It will place a huge burden on society, disabling more people who develop the disease, challenging their caregivers, and straining medical and social safety nets," said co-author Jennifer Weuve, MPH, ScD, assistant professor of medicine, Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "Our study draws attention to an urgent need for more research, treatments and preventive strategies to reduce this epidemic."
For the study, researchers analyzed information from 10,802 African-American and Caucasian people living in Chicago, ages 65 and older, between 1993 and 2011. Participants were interviewed and assessed for dementia every three years. Age, race and level of education were factored into the research.
The data were combined with US death rates, education and current and future population estimates from the US Census Bureau.
The study found that the total number of people with Alzheimer's dementia in 2050 is projected to be 13.8 million, up from 4.7 million in 2010. About 7 million of those with the disease would be age 85 or older in 2050.
"Our detailed projections use the most up-to-date data, but they are similar to projections made years and decades ago. All of these projections anticipate a future with a dramatic increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's and should compel us to prepare for it," said Weuve.
Liesi Hebert, ScD, assistant professor, Rush University Medical Center, is lead author of the study.