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One in Eight Baby Boomers Expected to Develop AD

About 10 million baby boomers, or one in eight people born between 1946 through 1964, will develop Alzheimer disease in the US, according to a new report by the Alzheimer's Association.

The report is based on previous disease prevalence studies and census reports. For example, the 2007 “Aging, Demographics and Memory Study” reported that an estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages currently have Alzheimer disease.

The number of people age 65 and over with Alzheimer disease is expected to reach 7.7 million in 2030, according to a 2003 study published in Archives of Neurology. By 2050 that number could range from 11 million to 16 million unless new ways to prevent or treat the disease are discovered.

“Business may be too good over the next 30 to 40 years,” said William Thies, PhD, vice president for medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer's Association. “Neurologists are going to be regarded as a strong group of experts who will be expected to deal with difficult cases and to educate the primary care doctors about proper therapies as they evolve.”

Dr. Thies said one surprising finding in the report is that one-quarter million eight- to 18-year-olds are providing care to family members with Alzheimer disease.

“The other piece that I think is perhaps not well appreciated is the fact that many of the other chronic disease of aging are in fact decreasing as causes of death but Alzheimer's disease is going in the other direction,” he said.

“There is no other disease of adults that essentially doubles the clinician's work like Alzheimer disease does,” said Jason H. T. Karlawish, MD, associate professor of medicine and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and associate director of the Penn Memory Center. He noted that neurologists often have to set up their office so that they can communicate with the patient and also privately with the patient's caregiver. And patients often have neuropsychiatric complications such as depression, anxiety, and agitation, that are “tough to manage and require certain skills that many practitioners are not comfortable with,” he said.

One solution, Dr. Karlawish said, is for the federal government to fund more Alzheimer disease centers for research and treatment. Existing centers are “a fraction of what is needed,” he added.

REFERENCES

• Plassman BL; Langa KM; Fisher GG; Heeringa SG; Weir DR; Ofstedal MB. Prevalence of Dementia in the United States: The Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study. Neuroepidemiology 2007;29:125–132.
    • Hebert LE; Scherr PA; Bienias JL; Bennet DA; Evans DA. Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. population: Prevalence estimates using the 200 census. Archives of Neurology 2003;60:1119–1122.