Shocking facts about Alzheimer’s disease (#6 is distressing)

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1. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is significant.

Approximately 55 million people around the globe have Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. As of 2023, around 6.7 million Americans aged 65+ (approximately 1 in 9) have Alzheimer’s disease.[02]

When looking at Alzheimer’s disease and aging, the research indicates that increasingly older adults tend to have a higher incidence of the disease. For example, 5% of people between the ages of 65 to 74 have Alzheimer’s disease, while 33.3% people aged 85+ have Alzheimer’s disease.[02]

As the United States’ population continues to gray in the coming decades, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is likely to increase. Predictions indicate that approximately 6.7 million people aged 85+ are expected to have Alzheimer’s disease by 2060. For comparison, around 2.4 million Americans aged 85+ had Alzheimer’s disease in 2023.[02]

2. Many Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease may not know they have it.

Alzheimer’s disease is underdiagnosed in the United States. It’s possible for some people to have symptoms and remain undiagnosed.[02]

“…Outside of research settings, a substantial portion of those who would meet the diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s and other dementias are not diagnosed with dementia by a physician,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2023 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Special Report.[02]

Why is this? This may be because Americans are unlikely to visit a medical provider when they start experiencing memory issues. Recent research indicates that only about 40% of Americans would speak to their provider as soon as possible upon realizing they were having cognitive issues.[02]

In some cases, an individual may have been diagnosed by a medical provider, but they were not informed of the diagnosis or did not understand their diagnosis. The latest data shows that, “only about half of Medicare beneficiaries who have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia in their Medicare billing records report being told of the diagnosis,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.[02]

3. Women typically have a higher lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s than men.

The most current research, which uses data from the Framingham Heart study, indicates that a 45-year-old woman has a higher estimated lifetime risk for Alzheimer’s than a 45-year-old male. In fact, women of this age have a 1 in 5 estimated lifetime risk, while men of this age have only a 1 in 10 estimated lifetime risk.[02]

4. People as young as 30 can be diagnosed with dementia.

While many associate Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia with older adults, these diseases can affect people under the age of 65. As of 2023, research on the prevalence in younger populations remain limited. However, it is believed that around 200,000 Americans between the ages of 30 and 64 have younger-onset dementia.[02]

5. Having a relative with Alzheimer’s disease may increase your risk of developing the disease.

The latest research shows that those with first-degree relatives (typically parents or siblings) with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to also develop Alzheimer’s disease themselves. It’s important to keep in mind that genetic and non-genetic factors, such as physical activity habits and healthy food choices, in families may play a role in this risk factor.[02] However, more research is needed in this area of Alzheimer’s research to provide further clarity.

6. Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S.

In 2019, Alzheimer’s disease was considered the sixth-leading cause of death in this country. However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted cause of death rankings with its significant death toll. The official numbers for 2022 are still being calculated as of this writing.[02] What we do know is that 1 in 3 older adults passes away with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.[03]

7. There are millions of unpaid dementia caregivers in the U.S.

As of the latest data, there are more than 11 million people in America providing unpaid care to Americans with Alzheimer’s diseases or other types of dementia.[02]

America’s unpaid dementia caregivers contributed an estimated 18 billion hours of informal care in 2022. The value of this contribution is an $339.5 billion, which is the same as “more than 14 times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2022 ($23.3 billion),” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.[02]

Often these responsibilities of caregiving fall to women in America. In fact, almost two-thirds of all dementia caregivers are women.[02]

8. Dementia caregivers may experience their own health decline.

Caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia face challenges that can threaten their own wellness. The constant, unrelenting tasks of caregiving can take their toll on a caregiver’s mental and physical wellbeing.

It’s common for dementia caregivers to experience caregiver burnout.  In fact, dementia caregivers experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than their non-caregiving counterparts.[02]

Recent research indicates that dementia caregivers may also be more susceptible to disease and health complications.[02] Chronic stress from caregiving may cause concerning physiological changes in the body, such as: [02]

  • High levels of stress hormones in the body
  • An impaired immune function in the caregiver
  • Coronary heart disease

9. Dementia is considered one of the most expensive conditions for society.

Health care and long-term care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are staggering. Much of the cost is covered by state and federal programs.

Medicare and Medicaid are expected to cover $222 billion, or 64%, of the total health care and long-term care payments for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.[02]

However, the burden is also shouldered by private funding sources with an estimated $87 billion of out-of-pocket spending indicated by the latest data.[02]

10. Alzheimer’s disease may begin 20 or more years before symptoms are noticed.

Recent research suggests that the brain changes that cause Alzheimer’s disease symptoms may begin at least two decades before a person notices their symptoms.[02]

As a progressive disease, Alzheimer’s disease becomes worse as time passes. The damage to nerve cells – also called neurons – begins to impair a person’s ability to do normal activities. The brain regions that handle language, memory, and thinking are typically the first to sustain damage. The progression of the disease varies from person to person.[02]

How to learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia

A Place for Mom has compiled these Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia resources to help you and your family learn more about these disease and long-term memory care options:

If your loved one has already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you may be wondering how you can support them. The following resources provide ways to understand and assist your loved one:

If you can no longer care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia on your own, the Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom can help you find in-home care or a senior care community in your local area. They can also help you understand different care options and schedule community tours, all at no cost to you.

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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