Contrary to the misquoted designation, “old-timers,” Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.
RESEARCH The Alzheimer's Association published its new 74-page report entitled 2010 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.  It conveys the burden of Alzheimer's and dementia on individuals, families, local and state government and the nation's healthcare system.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer's is the most prevalent form of dementia, in which synapses, neurons within the brain through which information flows, decline and die. "No treatment is available to slow or stop the deterioration of brain cells in Alzheimer's disease... Some data indicate that management of cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity may help avoid or delay cognitive decline."
The inability to remember new information is an early symptom. As the disease progresses, challenges in planning or solving problems, completing tasks, confusion with time or place, and mood changes with decreased judgment are evident. Advanced Alzheimer's patients require help with routine tasks like bathing, dressing, using the bathroom and eating. In the final stages, they lose the ability to communicate and fail to recognize loved ones.
Less than 1 percent of worldwide cases "involve chromosome 21 on the gene for the amyloid precursor protein chromosome 14 on the gene for the presenilin 1 protein and chromosome 1 on the gene for presenilin 2. In these inherited forms of Alzheimer's, the disease tends to develop before age 65, sometimes in individuals as young as 30."
"A genetic factor in late-onset Alzheimer's disease (Alzheimer's disease developing at age 65 or older) is apolipoprotein E-e4 (ApoE-e4). ApoE-e4 is one of three common forms of the ApoE gene, which provides the blueprint for a protein that carries cholesterol in the bloodstream. Everyone inherits one form of the ApoE gene from each of his or her parents. Those who inherit one ApoE-e4 gene have increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Those who inherit two ApoE-e4 genes have an even higher risk. However, inheriting one or two copies of the gene does not guarantee that the individual will develop Alzheimer's."
With their longer life expectancy, more women than men have dementia. Among Americans aged 71 or older, 16 percent of women and 11 percent of men are estimated to have some form of dementia. According to the Framingham Study following 2,800 people up to 29 years, at age 85, men have a 12.1 percent incidence compared to women at 20.3 percent.
"The number of Americans surviving into their 80s and 90s and beyond is expected to grow dramatically due to advances in medicine and medical technology, as well as social and environmental conditions." When the first wave of baby boomers reaches age 85 (2031), an estimated 3.5 million will have Alzheimer's. "By 2050, the number of individuals 65 and older with Alzheimer's is projected to number 11 million to 16 million — unless medical breakthroughs identify ways to prevent or more effectively treat the disease."
"While other major causes of death continue to experience declines, those from Alzheimer's disease have continued to rise." Compared to the 14,112 deaths from Alzheimer's in 1991, final data for 2006 showed a 46.1 percent increase.
"Severe dementia frequently causes such complications as immobility, swallowing disorders and malnutrition." This increases "the risk of developing pneumonia." One researcher described the situation as a "blurred distinction between death with dementia and death from dementia."
Likely because of acreage and popularity geographical retirement areas, Texas (4,887) and Florida (4,689) had the most Alzheimer's-attributed deaths in 2006. Washington (38.3) and Tennessee (34.6) had the highest rates per 100,000 compared to Hawaii which reported the lowest with 201 deaths (12.2 per 100K) in the same year.
"Given the high average cost of assisted living facilities (e.g., adult day center services, $67 a day, assisted living, $37,572 a year, and nursing home care, $72,270–$79,935 a year), most people with Alzheimer's and other dementias and their families cannot afford them for long. Medicaid is the only federal program that will cover the long nursing home stays that most people with dementia require in the late stages of their illness, but Medicaid requires beneficiaries to be poor to receive coverage. Private long-term care insurance is only an option for those who have the foresight and are healthy and wealthy enough to purchase policies before developing dementia."
Race and Ethnicity
Findings from the 2006 Health and Retirement Study survey show that in 2006, the prevalence of cognitive impairment was 10.5 percent for Americans aged 65 and older, including 8.8 percent for whites, 23.9 percent for African-Americans and 17.5 percent for Hispanics.
"High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke are known risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Some people have more than one of the four diseases, and they are at even greater risk of developing Alzheimer's and other dementias."
"Among whites, 61 percent of those with cognitive impairment had high blood pressure, compared with 52 percent of those with normal cognition. Likewise, among African-Americans, 80 percent of those with cognitive impairment had high blood pressure, compared with 69 percent of those with normal cognition. For Hispanics, 68 percent of those with cognitive impairment had high blood pressure, compared with 52 percent of those with normal cognition."
The good news is that roughly 85% of people will never develop Alzheimer's disease. Yet it remains a growing problem for physicians and families. Alzheimer's affects approximately 10 percent of men and 20 percent of women between the ages of 65 to 85 across all ethnicities. To cope with rising healthcare costs, families must acquire appropriate healthcare coverage early. Though there is currently no cure, proper diet and exercise reduce diseases often associated with Alzheimer's.
- Alzheimer's Facts and Figures, alz.org