New prevalence study suggests dramatically rising numbers of people with Alzheimers disease

Scientists project that some 13.2 million older Americans will have Alzheimer's disease (AD) by 2050 unless new ways are found to prevent or treat the disease. According to these latest estimates of the current and future prevalence of AD, reported by Denis A. Evans, M.D., and colleagues of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, the numbers of older people with AD -- now at 4.5 million will grow dramatically as the population ages. The most notable increases will be among people age 85 and older, when by mid-century 8 million people in that age group may have the disease.

The projections appear in the August 2003 issue of the Archives of Neurology. "These updated estimates from Evans and his group underscore the challenge that we face in the fight against AD," says Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, Ph.D., NIA Associate Director for the Neuroscience and Neuropsychology of Aging Program, which funded the research. "But I am also optimistic that current research will lead to strategies for intervention early in the disease so that we can keep these projections from becoming a reality."

The estimates were derived from a study of the incidence (number of new cases of AD per year) over 4 years among 3,913 people 65 and older in Chicago. The researchers then calculated the national prevalence of AD (the number of people at any particular time who have the disease) using population projections from the Census and death rates from the National Center for Health Statistics. Their estimates, based on Census Bureau "middle series" population projections, are:

Number of People with AD, by Age Group (in millions)

In 2000, 7 percent of those with AD were age 65-74, 53 percent age 75-84, and 40 percent age 85 and older. By 2050, it is projected that 60 percent of people with AD will be 85 and older.

In 2000, among people age 65-74, 17 percent of the cas

Contact: Jane Shure or Vicky Cahan
NIH/National Institute on Aging

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