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The Soaring Pace of Alzheimer’s On World Alzheimer’s Day

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, September 21, 2009 12:54 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Brain Health, Harvard, Gene Research

Alzheimer's is not given the priority in funding in the U.S. as is the case in France, for example.

September 21 - World Alzheimer’s Day



IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockphoto/ Alzheimer’s dad/ author: JJRD

On this, World Alzheimer’s Day, the theme is “Diagnosing Dementia: See It Sooner” - recognizing the symptoms and getting immediate treatment.

And if the past is any indication, the work is needed now. Cases are soaring at a rapid pace. By next year, a predicted 35.6 million around the world will suffer, which represents a 10 percent increase in four year.

According to the 2009 World Alzheimer Report, if the pace continues, the numbers of those with Alzheimer’s will double every 20 years.

By the year 2030, there will be 65.7 million cases worldwide, reaching 115.4 in the year 2050.

Alzheimer’s Disease International issued the latest report.

"Life expectancy is increasing everywhere in the world, and that's why the number of people with dementia are increasing," said Alzheimer’s Disease International Chair, Dr. Daisy Acosta.

Predicted to increase 125 percent over the next 20 years are North Africa and the Middle East. According to the research, the disease is growing fastest in low and middle-income countries with numbers in North America rising only slightly.

With a global cost of $315 billion annually, the toll also falls on the caregivers, the majority of who suffer some form of depression resulting from the demands and needs of living with loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A National Plan

The U.S. has no national plans for Alzheimer’s disease.

Because of that, treatment and research gains have lagged here, says Harry Johns, chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Association.

In the U.S., investment in research lags that of France, which has made research a national priority, as has the United Kingdom and Australia.

While drugs can be developed to slow the disease, preventing it in the first place is the goal.

Greg Cole, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says a worldwide effort is needed to cope with the increase in the disease, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

What Is Alzheimer’s?

Dementia is a progressive deterioration of the intellect, including memory. Speech, orientation, comprehension, and judgment are all affected. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is fatal, though individuals can leave years with the condition.

Those with the disease have plaque and tangle buildup in the brain that seems to impact areas of learning and then spreads to other regions. Synapses, or connecting points between brain cells, begin to fail and brain cells die.

A small percentage of the disease, about five percent, affects people with a rare genetic variation. They tend to develop Alzheimer’s before the age of 65.

The FDA has approved five drugs that slow the symptoms, but as to the cause – a growing body of evidence points to the health of the heart and blood vessels. Managing cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and weight may help offset cognitive decline, reports the Alzheimer’s Association.

Research has looked at environmental factors such as smoking and use of statins. In addition, other environmental factors such as infections, metals, and industrial toxins may trigger the disease process, particularly in people who have a genetic susceptibility.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may support brain health as does a rich social network and a lifetime of mental stimulation and intellectual curiosity. Those with fewer years of education appear to have higher rates of the disease and women have higher rates of dementia than men.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the seventh-leading cause of death with an estimated cost directly and indirectly of about $148 billion each year.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases.

The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, caused by decreased blood flow to parts of the brain, often from a series of small strokes that block arteries. #

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