November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we will be sharing things that will help you to understand more about this disease, to help both people living with the disease and caregivers. To start, let's look at how common Alzheimer's is, including the impact of age and gender.
The Alzheimer's Association Facts and Figures report for 2017 shares the in-depth statistics about Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias. Some of the key stats include:
- More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease
- By 2050, it could be 16 million
- Every 66 seconds someone in the US develops Alzheimer's disease
- Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's or other form of dementia. The older you are, the higher your risk.
- But also, Alzheimer's can start in people younger than 50
- Women are affected more often than men - almost 2/3 are women.
- Alzheimer's kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined
- Deaths from disease have declined, while Alzheimer's continues to rise - an 89% increase since 2010.
The statistics are sobering. I can personally attest to the point that the older a person is, the more likely they are to develop Alzheimer's disease from my occupational therapy practice with older adults. Although not formally tracked, it was pretty evident when most of my age 85+ patients would have at least a mild cognitive impairment when given a screen test. This was not just forgetfulness of "old age" but forgetfulness that led to mistakes or confusion.
Research is working hard to figure out how and why people develop Alzheimer's disease. Is it what we eat? Our environment? Our lifetime level of stimulating our brain? Our level of physical activity? Unfortunately, there is not one singular identified cause, but rather a mix of many variables. That is what makes developing treatments so difficult.
For now, some of our best defenses is simply learning what Alzheimer's is - and isn't - and how to best help affected people to live their best days despite the disease. Keep reading our Alzheimer's Awareness series of articles to become educated and empowered.