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Number of people with Alzheimer’s may triple by 2050

February 7, 2013
by Patricia Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief
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The number of people in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to almost triple by 2050, straining the healthcare system and burdening caregivers, according to a new study.

Numbers are projected to soar from about 5 million today to 13.8 million, researchers from the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, reported Wednesday in the journal Neurology. About 7 million of those with the disease would be age 85 or older in 2050.

The increase is attributed to the aging baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964.

“It will place a huge burden on society, disabling more people who develop the disease, challenging their caregivers, and straining medical and social safety nets,” said co-author Jennifer Weuve, MPH, ScD. “Our study draws attention to an urgent need for more research, treatments and preventive strategies to reduce this epidemic.”

For the study, researchers analyzed information from 10,802 African-American and Caucasian people living in Chicago, ages 65 and older between 1993 and 2011. Participants were interviewed and assessed for dementia every three years. Age, race and level of education were factored into the research.

The data was combined with U.S. death rates, education and current and future population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Our projections use sophisticated methods and the most up-to-date data, but they echo projections made years and decades ago. All of these projections anticipate a future with a dramatic increase in the number of people with Alzheimer’s and should compel us to prepare for it,” said Weuve.