Under the Hood

World Alzheimer's Day: Why US Dementia Rates Will Likely Double By 2060

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is set to double by the year 2060. Factors like age and race were examined in the new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study titled "Racial and ethnic estimates of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in the United States (2015–2060) in adults aged ≥ 65 years" was published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia on Sept. 19.

Sept. 21 marks World Alzheimer's Day, bringing awareness to and eradicating the stigma around dementia. Currently, there are around 5.7 million people living with the disease in the United States. By 2060, this number could rise up to 13.9 million, constituting more than 3 percent of the national population.

"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 lead author Kevin Matthews, health geographer with the CDC’s Division of Population Health.

The new study is said to be the first to forecast Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by race and ethnicity. While Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans aged 65 years and older, the findings also reveal a racial disparity. 

In the above age group, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is highest among African Americans at 13.8 percent, followed by Hispanics at 12.2 percent. The rest of the list included non-Hispanic whites (10.3 percent), American Indian and Alaska Natives (9.1 percent), and Asian and Pacific Islanders (8.4 percent).

Minority population growth is cited as one of the reasons for the forecast of rising rates. Hispanic Americans are the group expected to see the largest jump in the next few decades given the trends in their population growth.

The increase in lifespans, experts have stated, is also a major contributor to rising rates. Since age is the greatest risk factor for dementia, it makes sense that rates of the disease will soar when the aging population has been growing. 

Meanwhile, in terms of gender, women see a higher prevalence of dementia than men at 12.2 percent and 8.6 percent respectively. Projections from the findings suggest that 8.5 million women and 5.4 million men will be living with the disease by 2060.

"This study shows that as the U.S. population increases, the number of people affected by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias will rise, especially among minority populations," said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield. "Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future."

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