According to research published in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Journal, it’s predicted that nearly 50 million people in the US are now in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and 6 million are likely to already have it. The forecast has been based on data collected in the research into how rising rates of the disease will affect America in the coming years.

The study shows that 46.7 million people have seen evidence that they could be at risk of developing the disease. According to Keith Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association “To our knowledge, this is the first time someone has done this type of estimate.” The risks were calculated in the study by calculating the amount of amyloid in the brain, the loss of brain cells as well as memory loss and skill in reading and writing.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, and it’s estimated that it affects 5.5 million Americans. The study looked at reports of those who have the disease now, and researchers used this data to predict how many people are likely to be developing symptoms even if they don’t know it.

Fargo said “We predict by 2060, U.S. prevalence of clinical Alzheimer’s disease will grow to 9.3 million. It’s virtually all extrapolation. It’s looking at some real community-based cohorts that have been studies. But it’s not a matter of going systematically through the population. It’s very much a model-based estimate.”

He added that as the study uses clear data, it should be used as a way of estimating the future effect of Alzheimer’s on the general public.  According to the National Institutes of Health “For the first time, scientists have attempted to account for numbers of people with biomarkers or other evidence of possible preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, but who do not have impairment or Alzheimer’s dementia.”

“People with such signs of preclinical disease are at increased risk to develop Alzheimer’s dementia. An estimated 46.7 million American adults over age 30 are in this hypothetical preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease and another 2.43 million have mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease, although many will not progress to dementia during their lifetimes.”

“ We estimate that approximately 1.54 million (42 percent ) of the 3.65 million cases living today have late-stage clinical Alzheimer’s disease who need level of care equivalent to nursing homes. We predict by 2060, U.S. prevalence of clinical Alzheimer’s disease will grow to 9.3 million.”

It’s been predicted that by 2060, over 75 million people will be diagnosed with pre-clinical Alzheimer’s, which is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s has no cure, so there has been some criticism of the study as it’s unclear how the results can be used to benefit the public. Fargo said “There are things that you can do. These are the numbers of people we could potentially intervene with.”

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