10 Million Baby Boomers Face Alzheimer's Epidemic

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April 01, 2008 | 121,670 views

Approximately 10 million American baby boomers will develop Alzheimer‘s disease in their lifetime. This will place enormous strains on the U.S. health-care system.

At least 5.2 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer‘s. By 2010, there will be 500,000 new cases each year, and nearly one million new cases annually by 2050.

The disease is now the seventh deadliest illness in the nation.

In last year’s Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures Report, the number of Americans stricken with the disease was 5.1 million. This year’s report brings us up to 5.2 million, including some 200,000 to 250,000 people under the age 65 who are inexplicably stricken with so-called “early-onset Alzheimer’s.”

By 2050, the report estimates that a full 10 million U.S. “baby boomers” will have come down with Alzheimer’s, which translates to 1 out of 8!

The strain this will place on the already faltering U.S. federal Medicare program boggles the mind, as most people with Alzheimer’s are eligible for Medicare. More than three times as much money is spent on people with Alzheimer's and other dementias than the average Medicare recipient.

Currently, Medicare spends over $148 billion per year on Alzheimer’s patient care. A mere two years from now, that number is expected to reach $160 billion annually.

Alzheimer’s is just as much a threat to the future of American adults as the rampant rise in autism is to our children. Clearly something is wrong, but what? Because Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, any more than autism is a “stage” that children commonly go through.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic form of dementia that results in severe memory loss and eventually death. The average lifespan of someone with Alzheimer’s is about eight years, although many can survive up to 20 years with proper care.

It’s not entirely clear what causes Alzheimer's disease, but it (as well as autism) are related to thyroid hormone dysfunction, intracellular T3 (immune system cells) deficiency, and diabetes.

One type of Alzheimer’s, called frontotemporal dementia, is characterized by cellular damage in the front and side regions of your brain. Researchers still have no idea what causes it—only that excess production of a tiny protein fragment called beta-amyloid starts jamming the signals between your brain synapses, blocking information flow, leading to a cascade of damaging events that end in cell death. 

Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease

The risk factors for AD include genetic, environmental and dietary factors. Certain diseases also heighten your risk. People with diabetes, for example, have up to 65 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The primary genetic risk factor is the presence of the Apo lipoprotein E epsilon4 (APOE e4) allele, which is more common among Africans, Inuits, Amerindians, Northern Europeans than southern Europeans.  

Primary dietary risk factors include trans-fatty acids that are found in so many processed foods (labeled as partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils). One prospective study also found that elevated homocysteine levels were associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s. Homocysteine levels are elevated when you are deficient in vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12.

Primary environmental factors include: smoking, obesity, and exposure to fluoride, aluminum and mercury. 

How to Prevent Alzheimer’s

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer’s. These simple lifestyle changes can help keep your brain in optimal working order well past your 60’s.

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