Aging America: In 30 years, 13.8 million people in the US may have Alzheimer’s

alzheimers petersen jack
Credit: Jack Petersen

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common dementia among older adults, now affects about 5.8 million U.S. residents 65 and older — 10 percent of that age group, according to a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association. Age is considered the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, with 3 percent of people 65 to 74, 17 percent of those 75 to 84 and 32 percent of people 85 and older — or nearly a third — having the disease. By 2050, the number of U.S. adults 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is expected to reach 13.8 million, with about half of them 85 or older. The association’s report attributes the growing number of Americans with Alzheimer’s to the projected aging of the U.S. population.

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Alzheimer’s is an irreversible brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, can alter mood and personality and eventually disrupts the ability to carry out simple day-to-day tasks. Hallucinations, agitation and aggression are common symptoms as the condition advances. Although there is no cure for the disease — or even drugs to slow or stop progression — some medications can temporarily improve cognitive or behavioral symptoms. Non-medication therapies — exercise, music to stir recall or special lighting to ease sleep disorders — also can be helpful, but the report says that they also do not stop or slow the disease.

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