19th March 04:44
Alzheimer's Cases Expected to Triple (psychiatry depression crisis impairment)
Alzheimer's Cases Expected to Triple
By Kathleen Doheny HealthDay Reporter
MONDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDayNews) -- The number of Americans with
Alzheimer's disease will triple by 2050, according to new
Although the projected figures come as no surprise to those familiar
with the brain disorder, one expert calls the new research a "wake-up
call" to prevent a crisis.
Currently, 4.5 million older Americans have Alzheimer's disease; the
new study says that the figure could balloon to 13.2 million by 2050.
Unless new ways are found to prevent or treat the disease, the
dramatic rise in cases is inevitable, says the study's author,
although he hopes the prediction won't become reality.
"We don't want these projections to come true," says Dr. Denis A.
Evans, director of the Institute for Healthy Aging at
Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. His study is
published in the August issue of the Archives of Neurology.
The report come on the heels of other research, also released Monday,
that found that four out of five older patients experiencing early
symptoms of Alzheimer's or other cognitive disorders are not getting
diagnosed or treated by their primary care doctors.
That delay prevents patients from obtaining the benefits of early
treatment or the chance to make their own legal and financial
decisions when their mind is still able, notes Dr. Sanford Finkel of
the Council for Jewish Elderly. Finkel, a clinical professor of
psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical School, presented his
study at the 11th Congress of the International Psychogeriatric
Association, an organization devoted to geriatric mental health
To achieve his Alzheimer's forecast, Evans and his research team first
looked at the incidence of Alzheimer's over a four-year period among
3,913 Chicago residents ages 65 and older. They calculated the
national prevalence of Alzheimer's and then used Census Bureau data
to project the number of cases to the year 2050. The projections,
Evans adds, assume that not much progress will be made in combating
the disease, for which there is now no cure.
Evans says his estimate is higher than some previous ones partly
because "the science of doing these projections has progressed a bit
in the last 15 years, so we think these are more accurate." Among
other factors, the new techniques take into account the longer life
span of Americans as a result of modern medicine.
Sheldon Goldberg, chief executive officer of the Alzheimer's
Association, calls the findings "a wake-up call. " He adds: "This is
not the first study [to predict the coming increase in cases]. It
really validates earlier research that says from a public health
standpoint, a crisis is coming."
He quickly adds, "A crisis is actually already here."
The new research points to the need to fund more investigations of
prevention and treatment methods, Goldberg says.
Finkel's study, which looked at how adept doctors are at picking up
symptoms of cognitive impairment and possible first clues to the
disease, was conducted at 11 sites in Chicago and downstate Illinois,
evaluating the care of 2,150 patients age 65 and older.
As many as 28 percent showed cognitive impairments -- such as memory
problems --but only in about 6 percent of cases were the problems
noted in the medical records.
Alzheimer's patients suffer memory problems that grow progressively
worse, are often confused, and can become quite agitated.
Twenty-three percent of the patients studied also showed symptoms of
depression, another common condition among the elderly, but less than
one-quarter were diagnosed.
"The finding is not going to surprise anyone," says Bill Thies, the
Alzheimer Association's vice president of medical and scientific
affairs. Evaluating a patient for the cognitive changes that can
point to Alzheimer's "takes longer than general practice physicians
often have," Thies adds.
For more information on Alzheimer's disease, try the National
Institute on Aging or the Alzheimer's Association.
(SOURCES: Bill Thies, Ph.D., vice president, medical and scientific
affairs, and Sheldon Goldberg, CEO, Alzheimer's Association, Chicago;
Denis A. Evans, M.D., professor of medicine, Rush University, and
director, Institute for Healthy Aging, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's
Medical Center, Chicago; Sanford Finkel, M.D., clinical professor of
psychiatry, and senior vice president of medical affairs, Council for
Jewish Elderly, and chair, International Psychogeriatric Association
Congress; August 2003 Archives of Neurology; Aug. 18, 2003,
presentation, International Psychogeriatric Association, Chicago)
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