About 15 million Americans will have either Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment by 2060, up from approximately 6.08 million this year, according to a new study by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Ron Brookmeyer, professor of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the study’s lead author, said the findings highlight the need to develop measures that could slow the progression of the disease in people who have indications of neuropathological changes that could eventually lead to Alzheimer’s dementia. The population is aging, and with it comes a growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease, he explained.
The study is published in the peer-reviewed Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. It is the first to estimate the numbers of Americans with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
In a press release, Brookmeyer said:
“There are about 47 million people in the U.S. today who have some evidence of preclinical Alzheimer’s, which means they have either a build-up of protein fragments called beta-amyloid or neurodegeneration of the brain but don’t yet have symptoms. Many of them will not progress to Alzheimer’s dementia in their lifetimes. We need to have improved methods to identify which persons will progress to clinical symptoms, and develop interventions for them that could slow the progression of the disease, if not stop it all together.”
For the study, Brookmeyer and his team examined the largest studies available on rates of progression of Alzheimer’s disease, then used that information in a computer model they created that took into account the aging of the U.S. population. The model projected the numbers of people in preclinical and clinical disease states.
The findings are concerning: The researchers believe that by 2060, about 5.7 million Americans will have mild cognitive impairment and another 9.3 million will have dementia due to Alzheimer’s. Of the latter group, about 4 million Americans will need an intensive level of care similar to that provided by nursing homes. Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate clinical stage that does not yet meet the threshold for dementia.
In addition, Brookmeyer estimates that today about 2.4 million Americans are living with mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease.
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