As the aging population of the United States grows, a new study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that from 2014 to 2060, there will be a 178% increase in the number of Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
That means the US burden is expected to more than double, from 1.6% of the population (5 million people) in 2014 to nearly 3.3% (13.9 million people) in 2060.
The study, published Wednesday in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, was the first to look at race and ethnicity in relation to dementia and its future.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are “characterized by a decline in memory leading to loss of independence,” the authors write. Symptoms can include memory loss, decline in skills such as word finding and reduced reasoning or judgment, according to the National Institute on Aging. Treatments include “helping people maintain mental function, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow down certain problems, such as memory loss.” It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
“Although the primary risk factor for ADRD [Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias] is age, race and ethnicity is also an important demographic risk factor,” the study notes. “Estimates of ADRD among these subgroups do not exist.”
Of the 5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or related dementias in 2014, the lowest prevalence was in Asian and Pacific Islanders (8.4%) and the highest in African-Americans (13.8%). Among Hispanics, 12.2% were diagnosed with these conditions, along with 10.3% of whites and 9.1% of American Indian and Alaska natives. More women (13.3%) than men (9.2%) were diagnosed in 2014.
Non-Hispanic whites have the highest number of cases because of the size of the population, but Hispanics are facing the highest projected increase. Diagnoses in whites are expected to plateau around 2030, but the number of cases in other populations will continue to grow, the study found.
To find their projections, researchers the combined the compared numbers of Alzheimer’s and related dementias in 2014 Medicare recipients with US Census Bureau projection data.
The authors also highlight that, due to projected growth, caregivers of those living with dementia will need support and that “culturally competent care for these groups will be of paramount importance.” They state that having this workforce will help improve early recognition signs of the disease and assist those with it.
“It is important for people who think their daily lives are impacted by memory loss to discuss these concerns with a health care provider. An early assessment and diagnosis is key to planning for their health care needs, including long-term services and supports, as the disease progresses,” said Kevin Matthews, lead author of the study and a health geographer with the CDC’s Division of Population Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.