LOS ANGELES — More than 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease today. But by 2060, that number will more than double to a staggering 15 million, according to a recent study.
Researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health studied the largest surveys available examining rates of progression of Alzheimer’s disease. They used the information in a computer model they created to account for an aging U.S. population. The model projected the numbers of people in both pre-clinical and clinical disease states.
“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,” says Ron Brookmeyer, professor of biostatistics at UCLA, in a news release. “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.”
The projections showed that by 2060, 5.7 million Americans will have some form of mild cognitive impairment — a stage of decline that causes people to struggle with executive functions, but isn’t as severe as dementia — and another 9.3 million will have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. The model also estimated that of those with Alzheimer’s dementia, 4 million will require intensive levels of care, similar to that provided by nursing homes.
Brookmeyer believes about 2.4 million are currently living with mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Estimates by disease state and severity are important because the resources needed to care for patients vary so much over the course of the illness,” says Brookmeyer.
Researchers say the results indicate the dire need to develop ways to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in patients who show signs of suffering from it later in life.
The full study was published in the February 2018 edition of the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.