We have long known that Alzheimer’s is on the rise. Each year, it affects more and more individuals both directly and indirectly. Today, there are approximately 5.3 million Americans personally affected by Alzheimer’s, not to mention the millions of individuals that care for this rising population.
It has been projected that Alzheimer’s rates will nearly triple by the year 2050, to an overwhelming 13.5 million cases. This is shocking enough, however, it’s expected that between now and 2050, 28 million baby boomers will have developed this disease. That is a tough number to swallow.
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases with age and due to the large population of baby boomers, we will soon see levels far beyond anything we have seen in the past. Who is going to care for these individuals? What does this mean for medical care?
In 2020, it’s projected that 2.1% of Medicare will be spent on the baby boomer population in regards to Alzheimer’s. However, by the year 2040, this number is expected to increase to 24.2%. Without taking inflation into account, that’s $328.15 billion dollars. More alarming, these costs only account for Medicare, not home care, nursing home costs, overnight care, or any other related expenses.
These findings were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference earlier this week. The focus has been on saving both lives and dollars, based on a report released this year, Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s Disease: How a Treatment by 2025 Saves Lives and Dollars.
At the conference, it was expressed that public funding for Alzheimer’s research is extremely limited when focusing on the magnitude of this issue. Just as strategies have been implemented to save lives regarding cancer, HIV, and heart disease, the same types of effective treatment and preventative measures need to be developed for Alzheimer’s.
Based on this recent report, it’s been said that a treatment which delays Alzheimer’s onset could not only save $220 billion within the first five years but could also cut the number of affected people from 13.5 million to 7.8 million. That’s an astonishing reduction of 42%.
A research team from The Lewin Group developed a model that charted the expected trajectory and economic impact of Alzheimer’s. This was based on factors such as the rate of new diagnoses, the expected number of individuals to be living with Alzheimer’s, as well as the cost of care between the years 2015 to 2050.
To be their findings into perspective, rates are expected to rise from 1.2 percent of the baby boomer population affected, to 50.1 percent in 2050. At this point in time, all surviving baby boomers will be over the age of 85 and more than half will be struggling with this debilitating disease.
This new data makes it clear that an investment from the federal government is required, as Alzheimer’s will place an increased demand on both health and social services in the near future. Right now, the main goal is preventing and effectively treating this disease.
Remember, you’re not completely helpless to this disease. You can reduce your risk by following a healthy lifestyle, focusing on five key components:
• Physical Exercise: You should be physically active a minimum three times weekly. It’s believed that the greatest cognitive benefits come from a combination of aerobic, flexibility, and strength training. Moderate exercise lasting 30 minutes is perfect, especially when implementing exercise into your daily routine.
• Mental Exercise: You need to strengthen the connections in your brain as well, by participating in activities that require higher levels of thinking and concentration. It’s been estimated that those who engage in cognitive stimulating activities are actually 47 percent less likely to develop this disease. Some examples are playing a musical instrument, playing board or card games, writing, knitting and reading.
• Proper Nutrition: Proper nutrition is critical for both your brain and heart. There appears to be a direct correlation between vitamin C, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, and risk reduction of Alzheimer’s. Reduce your intake of processed foods, focusing on plenty of fresh whole food options.
• Social Interaction: Staying socially connected appears to be important when reducing your risk of dementia. Those who are isolated are at a greater risk for depression, which has been linked to the onset of dementia. Stay connected with friends and family or volunteer in your community.
• Reducing Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Your brain and heart health are not independent of one another. When you care for your heart, you’re caring for your brain as well. Those who suffer from high blood pressure are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. If your blood pressure is high, assess your current lifestyle. Stop smoking, watch your diet, and reduce your sodium intake.
For more information regarding preventative measures, as well as current and future strategies, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association.
photo credit: Brain Anatomy Hoop Art. Hand Embroidered Wall Decor via photopin (license)
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