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Alzheimer's disease continues to be a growing problem

Dr. Amanda Smith
Published Mar. 26

Statistics by themselves can sometimes be confusing or open to misinterpretation, so LifeTimes talked to an expert on Alzheimer's disease about the latest numbers from the Alzheimer's Association. We asked Dr. Amanda Smith, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences and director of clinical research at the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute in Tampa, to put the 2019 statistics into perspective. We also asked her what more positive news there might be in the near future.

What can we learn from these statistics?

People are living longer. The baby boomer generation is huge. That's part of the reason the numbers don't drop. People are living into that group that statistically gets Alzheimer's.

What can we take from these statistics?

They're finally showing us what an epidemic this disease is.

Do these numbers reflect any changes toward Alzheimer's by the medical community?

For a long time, Alzheimer's was considered a normal part of aging. Now, doctors who have been in practice less than 25 years are beginning to look at the cognitive aspect of aging. That's new. They're seeing it as a problem rather than just saying, "Oh, you're just getting older." They're helping people earlier.

What else does the report tell us?

It highlights the tremendous toll taken on caregivers emotionally and physically. It's not new information; it's just continuing to be more and more of a problem.

What is some good news about Alzheimer's detection or prevention?

I think our ability to identify disease earlier is increasing. There's more of a focus on prevention and (on) understanding more what some of the properties are. We're learning about some of the risk factors and (about) modifying them in midlife.

What are some of the preventatives that are showing up?

We're learning that aerobic exercise specifically may be a preventative. Elements of the Mediterranean Diet, which is low in saturated fats (and) high in antioxidants, may be another.

What about a way for earlier diagnosis?

Where there has been some progress and, hopefully, in the next couple of years, are blood tests (that are) as good as some of the imaging studies. These would be lab tests for Alzheimer's that are less invasive and cost less than what we currently have.

Contact Fred W. Wright Jr. at travelword@aol.com.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Alzheimer's Association has released its 2019 statistics on the disease and its impact on patients, caregivers and the economy. Here are some of the highlights:

145% Increase in the number of deaths from Alzheimer's disease from 2000 to 2017.

10% of U.S. adults 65 and older have Alzheimer's.

32% of U.S. adults 85 or older have Alzheimer's.

No. 5

Alzheimer's is the fifth-leading cause of death in Americans 65 and older.

16M+

Number of Americans who provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

16%

Percentage of seniors who receive regular cognitive assessments during a routine health checkup.

5.8M

The estimated number of Americans of all ages who are living with Alzheimer's.

14M

The estimated number of Americans of all ages who will be living with Alzheimer's by 2050.

65 seconds

Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's every 65 seconds.

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