A recent report funded by the National Institutes of Health has pegged the annual costs of dementia to be between $157 billion and $215 billion.

This, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM, is more that the US spends on heart disease of cancer per year. Direct health care costs of dementia were calculated by the NEJM to be $109 billion per year compared to $102 billion in 2010 for heart disease and $77 billion for cancer.

Alzheimer's disease, one of the types of disease covered under dementia, affects around 5.3 million Americans. And by 2050, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer's is expected to double from current numbers.

Because there are no effective treatments or cures for the various diseases covered under the umbrella of 'dementia,' most of the costs cover long-term care. The non-profit RAND Corporation projects costs associated with dementia care to double by 2040. The reason for this dramatic increase in spending has to do a with the rapidly aging population of baby boomers and people living longer lives.

"Our calculations suggest that the aging of the US population will result in an increase of nearly 80 percent in total societal costs per adult by 2040," the report stated.

"The economic burden of caring for people in the United States with dementia is large and growing larger," said Michael Hurd, the study's lead author and a senior economist at RAND. "Our findings underscore the urgency of recent federal efforts to develop a coordinated plan to address the growing impact of dementia on American society."

Dementia is prevalent amongst older Americans, accounting for close to 15 percent of the population over 70 years of age. The cost of care for an individual with dementia is between $41,000 and $56,000 yearly, according to the study. The study used over 10,000 people as a metric for determining the cost per person that demential care entails.

The reseachers who compiled the study warned that unless effective treatments are found the costs could spiral out of control in the coming decades. "Dementia costs currently rival those of cancer and heart disease. But, within 30 years, dementia may be in a league of its own," said Richard M. Suzman, Ph. D., director of NIA's Division of Social and Behavioral Research. "Unless effective interventions are found to treat Alzheimer's, formal long-term dementia care costs will escalate for the baby boom generation, as they have fewer children available to provide unpaid, informal care."

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, can be found here.