As the U. S. population ages, Alzheimer's will be an even larger health problem than it is now. The goal of this study was to project how many people would have Alzheimer's in the United States in the next 50 years and what can be done to delay the disease.
To get the numbers, the researchers took the ages when people got this disease from several studies and compared them with death rates and the Bureau of Census' projections.
It was hard to figure out exactly when people get the disease, because Alzheimer's is not easy at first to diagnose. Four studies helped determine the number of people at different ages who have Alzheimer's. The researcher's rates were: age 75 (4.3%), 80 (8.5%), 85 (16%), and 90 (28.5%). The information suggested that the rate of Alzheimer's increases as people age, at last until age 90. These studies were consistent with international studies.
In 1997, 2.32 million people had this disease. Sixty-eight percent were females. That percentage reflected the higher numbers of females at advanced age alive compared with males.
The current number of people with Alzheimer's should quadruple in the next 50 years to 8.64 million, said the researchers. That means that 1 in 45 Americans will have Alzheimer's. If things could be done to delay onset by even two years, then there would be two million fewer people with this disease in 50 years.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs for the disease, but their effect is marginal. Some suggest that drugs that fight inflammation may help as would estrogen for women. Antioxidants also may be of use. #6
Brookmeyer, R., Gray, S., & Kawas, C. (1998). Projections of Alzheimer's disease in the United States and the public health impact of delaying disease onset. American Journal of Public Health 88(9), 1337-1342.
Copyright. The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Independent Living.