Around six million Americans today have dementia, with that number expected to more than double in the next 40 years, according to new research highlighting the need for interventions to slow progression of the degenerative brain disease.
No cure exists although some medications can help with memory loss and management strategies can improve symptoms. Alzheimer’s is defined by a buildup of specific proteins in the brain, clogging neural pathways and destroying a person’s ability to function.
It is the third leading cause of death for older people, according to statistics by the National Institute on Aging.
The latest study was conducted by researches at the University of California Los Angeles and is the first to assess people with biomarkers or other evidence of preclinical Alzheimer’s, according to a statement by the National Institutes of Health, which funded the project.
At least 15 million people are expected to have Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment by 2060, with about 4 million people requiring intensive care, such as living in a nursing home.
The study’s lead author Dr. Ron Brookmeyer said in a statement that about 47 million people in the U.S. today have some evidence of preclinical Alzheimer’s but no symptoms, with the determination made by finding a build-up of the protein beta-amyloid in the brain.
“Many of them will not progress to Alzheimer’s dementia in their lifetimes,” he continued. “We need to have improved methods to identify which persons will progress to clinical symptoms, and develop interventions for them that could slow the progression of the disease, if not stop it all together.”
The study, titled “Forecasting the prevalence of preclinical and clinical Alzheimer’s disease in the United States”, was published Thursday in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
An increase in dementia patients will add a significant burden on different sectors of society. In an unrelated survey by researchers at the University of Southern California, they found that one in six millennials — young adults born between 1980 and 1998 — are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimers.
With 33 percent of respondents saying their caregiving duties have an impact on their work, and 14 percent leaving work altogether, the researchers raise the alarm that not finding solutions to care will limit participation of young people in the work force, as well as creating an increased emotional burden.
Source: The Washington Times
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