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New Alzheimer's report offers a reality check, plus some 'what if's'

May 19, 2010 | 10:19 am

Hands "Clearly, the ultimate goal is to have treatments that completely prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias -- eventually resulting in a world without these conditions. Yet, as this report illustrates,
even modest and, perhaps, more readily available treatments could prove to be tremendously valuable."

So states the introduction to a new report from the Alzheimer's Assn., "Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer's Disease: A National Imperative."

The analysis offers an array of stark statistics and estimates. Among them:

-- The number of Americans age 65 and older who have, or will have, Alzheimers disease in 2010: 5.1 million.
-- The number of Americans age 65 and older who have, or will have, Alzheimers disease in 2050: 13.5 million.

-- The total annual costs of caring for people with Alzheimers in 2010: $172 billion.
-- The total annual costs of caring for people with Alzheimers in 2050: $1.08 trillion.


And then the report gets interesting.

If we were to prove capable of delaying the age of onset by five years -- and if that measure began to work by 2015 -- we could decrease the total number of 65-and-older Americans with the disease by 5.8 million by 2050, the report states. 

If we were to prove capable of delaying progression of the disease, more Americans would actually have the disease by 2050 than would otherwise be the case, but care costs would be cheaper.

Multiple cost and disease estimates ensue. And though the report paints picture that's far from sunny, it does suggest what incremental progress can achieve. And, at this point in our fight against Alzheimer's, we'll take it.

Here's the full Alzheimer's report. And here's a look at the current state of Alzheimer's research, as described by the National Institute on Aging. Note the link to clinical trials.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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