The Alzheimer’s Association released their annual Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report yesterday. And the news unsurprisingly was not good.
Here are a few alarming facts contained in the 2013 version of this report (which encompasses only the US):
- One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form dementia. (Read this to understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimers.)
- This year, 450,000 people are expected to die of Alzheimer’s.
- Someone develops Alzheimer’s every 68 seconds. By 2050, this number will be every 33 seconds.
- An estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. As you would expect, 5 million are 65 and older.
- One in nine people 65+ has Alzheimer’s.
- By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million, a 40 percent increase from the 5 million seniors currently affected.
- By 2050, that number is expected to triple to 13-16 million, unless there is a breakthrough that slows or stops the disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death. While deaths from heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and stroke continue to experience significant declines, Alzheimer’s deaths continue to rise — increasing 68% from 2000-2010. This means your chances of dying from or with Alzheimer’s is growing at an alarming rate.
The Six Alzheimer’s Risk Factors
This report states the six top risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s as aging, having the disease in the family, having fewer years of formal education, or having been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), heart disease, or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
It might surprise you to learn that according to this report, the only known cause of Alzheimer’s is a genetic mutation that’s responsible for a mere 1% of Alzheimer’s cases. So if Alzheimer’s runs in your family, the overwhelmingly more critical factors are a shared environment and lifestyle.
It’s not understood the exact role education plays. Some researchers believe that having more years of education builds a “cognitive reserve” that enables individuals to better compensate for changes in the brain that result in mental decline, while others believe lower educational attainment may lead to certain at-risk lifestyle factors like smoking or poor nutrition. Another component is education as it relates to socioeconomic standing and access to medical care.
Brain injuries have been in the news a lot this year as the effects of playing professional football have become public. But for the average person, the most likely cause of TBI is from car accidents, which accounts for half of all cases.
Recognized Treatment — “Active Medical Management”
The only medically recognized treatments are five FDA approved drugs that temporarily improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by increasing the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain. These can slow the rate of mental decline, not stop or reverse it.
The best medical course currently prescribed is “active medical management”. This means prescribing one of these medications, “managing” behavioral symptoms that arise (which means more medications), coordinating care between medical professionals, and having the patient participate in adult day care programs or support groups. Sounds like my idea of hell.
Not a White Man’s Disease
Roughly 2/3 of Alzheimer’s patients are women. This is a consequence of women living longer than men.
But longevity is not why African-Americans and Hispanics are much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than Caucasians.
The reasons for this are another unknown. There may be a genetic component but, according to this report, it’s more likely that these groups have less access to good medical care. It is known that there are more misdiagnosed cases amongst these groups.
No Happy Ending for Anyone
For those who succumb to this disease, there is no happy ending. The average person lives 4-8 years after being diagnosed but can live up to 20. You can expect to spend more years in the severe stages of this disease than in any other.
After age 80, there’s a 75% chance that a person with Alzheimer’s will live out their life in a nursing home. Compare this to the 4% chance you’ll do so if you don’t have Alzheimer’s.
In 2012, unpaid caregivers — friends and family — provided an estimated 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care. Their contribution has been valued at over $216 billion. Shockingly, this is more than eight times the $27 billion total sales of McDonald’s in 2011!
Initially, that care involves doing household chores, shopping, making meals, providing transportation, making sure medications are taken, and managing financial and legal affairs. Later on this involves more personal matters such as helping that person dress, bathe, groom, eat, and use the bathroom.
In later stages, it gets more difficult for lay persons to manage behavioral symptoms of the disease such as aggression, wandering, depression, agitation, anxiety, and nighttime disturbances.
It’s not unusual for the caregivers themselves to experience increased emotional stress, depression, and a decrease in general health not to mention lost wages due to disruptions in employment and depleted finances.
No one wants this end for themselves, and no one wants to put their loved ones through this, either.
“No Prevention”? We Strongly Disagree!
You can access the report 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures here. You can watch the Alzheimer’s Association’s accompanying video, which summarizes the report’s statistics.
But before you do, I want you to know that I take great exception to their conclusion that Alzheimer’s can’t be cured or prevented.
The Alzheimer’s Association claims to be the world’s leading Alzheimer’s care, support and research organization. They state their mission is to “eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research”. You may even conclude, as I have, that they are trying to scare you into giving of your time and money.
This organization seems to be a lumbering giant closely aligned with the medical establishment. Peruse their site and you’ll find more links that lead to requests for donations, joining walk-a-thons, or becoming a corporate sponsor than you will find ways to prevent this disease.
Peruse our site and you’ll find plenty of good news — steps you can take to improve your brain health and improve your chances of not becoming an Alzheimer’s statistic!
Maintain Your Brain®?
The Alzheimer’s Association has trademarked the phrase “Maintain Your Brain”®, yet the information on their site about how to do that is almost non-existent. They recommend staying mentally, physically, and socially active and eating a healthy diet. But I bet you already knew that.
Their diet instructions mention eating dark fruits and vegetables (like kale, blueberries, and prunes), cold water fish for their beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, and using mono- and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, and that’s basically it.
They don’t mention that coconut oil has helped people reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms. They gloss over the details that most fish you buy won’t contain the brain-essential omega-3s, that most olive oil is fake, or that polyunsaturated fats’ high omega-6 content causes chronic and systemic inflammation which contributes to most major diseases.
Knowing these details can make all the difference between giving your body what is needs to prevent disease and actually contributing to it.
They also don’t mention that Alzheimer’s may be type 3 diabetes, and that our high sugar diet is contributing to the epidemic of brain diseases or that widespread omega-3 deficiencies cause 96,000 preventable deaths per year.
If you read the report, don’t get too discouraged. You’ve made it here, which shows you’re looking for answers, and refuse to accept the status quo. Yes, the big picture of the future might look dire, but that doesn’t have to be your future.
SOURCE: (including graphs, report, and video) – ALZ.org