World Alzheimer's Day
Facts about Alzheimer's Disease
- Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia among older adults. It involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language and can seriously affect a person's ability to carry out daily activities.
- Although not a normal part of aging, the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with age. Most individuals with Alzheimer's disease are over the age of 65. However, people younger than age 65 also can develop Alzheimer's disease.
- Scientists do not know what causes Alzheimer's disease, but it is believed that it is similar to other chronic conditions and develops as a result of multiple factors rather than a single cause.
Global Alzheimer's Disease
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 18 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease. By 2025, this estimate is projected to grow to 34 million people, with the highest increase expected among developing countries.
Alzheimer's Disease in the United States
- It is currently estimated that approximately 2.6 million to 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's disease, depending upon the approach used for identifying individuals with dementia.
- If no cure is developed and present population trends continue, as many as 16 million individuals may have Alzheimer's disease by the year 2050.
- Alzheimer's disease ranks as the 6th leading cause of death among adults aged 18 years and older, and is the 5th leading cause of death for adults aged 65 years and older.
- For people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, the total payments for health care, long-term care, and hospice are projected to increase from $183 billion in 2011 to $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2011 U.S. dollars).
A coordinated approach involving public and private partners is needed to address Alzheimer's disease and its devastating effects on individuals, families, and the health care system. There are several new and existing activities currently underway. Some of these efforts are described below.
CDC Healthy Brain Initiative
The CDC Healthy Brain Initiative began in 2005, and aims to better understand the public health burden of cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer's disease, through conducting surveillance; building a strong evidence base for policy, communication, and programmatic interventions for improving cognitive health; and translating that foundation into effective public health practice in states and communities. This work is guided by the strategic public health framework outlined in The Healthy Brain Initiative: A National Public Health Road Map to Maintaining Cognitive Health.
Released in September 2011, the CDC Healthy Brain Initiative Progress: 2006–2011 [PDF - 1.53MB]and Executive Summary Progress Report 2006–2011: The CDC Healthy Brain Initiative [PDF - 857KB] outline progress to date of the CDC Healthy Brain Initiative.
National Alzheimer's Project Act
The National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) was signed into law on January 4, 2011, by the President of the United States. NAPA (Public Law 111-375) calls for creating an Advisory Council comprising CDC and other federal and nonfederal partners to develop a national strategic plan for federal agencies to address and overcome the rapidly escalating crisis of Alzheimer's disease. Once the plan is developed, it will help coordinate Alzheimer's disease efforts across the federal government by specifying outcome-driven objectives, recommendations, implementation steps, and accountability. More information about NAPA and the Advisory Council.
New Diagnostic Guidelines for Alzheimer's Disease
In April 2011, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Alzheimer's Association revised the diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer's disease and characterized research guidelines on the basis of findings from decades of research. Originally developed in 1984, the previous criteria focused on the later stages of the disease after the patient showed clinical symptoms. The newly revised criteria cover the full spectrum of the disease as it gradually changes over many years, beginning with preclinical changes in the brain that likely occur before any symptoms are noticed, progressing to mild cognitive impairment, and eventually dementia due to Alzheimer's disease.
Notably, the guidelines now include the use of imaging and biomarkers in blood and spinal fluid that occur with Alzheimer's disease. Biomarkers are measures that indicate the presence or absence of disease or factors that can increase or decrease a person's risk of disease. An example of a biomarker is elevated blood cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease. Biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease are increasingly used in the research setting to detect onset of the disease and to track progression, but cannot yet be used routinely in clinical diagnosis without further testing and validation. More information about the new diagnostic guidelines.
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