Report: 35 million-plus worldwide have dementia

Sep 21, 2009 By LAURAN NEERGAARD , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- More than 35 million people around the world are living with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, says the most in-depth attempt yet to assess the brain-destroying illness - and it's an ominous forecast as the population grays.

The new count is about 10 percent higher than what scientists had predicted just a few years ago, because earlier research underestimated Alzheimer's growing impact in developing countries.

Barring a medical breakthrough, the World Alzheimer Report projects dementia will nearly double every 20 years. By 2050, it will affect a staggering 115.4 million people, the report concludes.

"We are facing an emergency," said Dr. Daisy Acosta, who heads International, which released the report Monday.

The U.S. and other developed countries long have been bracing for Alzheimer's to skyrocket. But the report aims to raise awareness of the threat in poorer countries, where finally people are living long enough to face what is mostly a disease of the 65-and-older population.

While age is the biggest driver of Alzheimer's, some of the same factors that trigger heart disease - , high , diabetes - seem to increase the risk of dementia, too. Those are problems also on the rise in many developing countries.

In poorer countries, "dementia is a hidden issue," Acosta said, and that's complicating efforts to improve earlier diagnosis. "You're not supposed to talk about it."

For example, the report notes that in India, such terms such as "tired brain" or "weak brain" are used for Alzheimer's symptoms amid widespread belief that dementia is a normal part of aging - when it's not.

That mistake isn't confined to the developing world. Even in Britain, the report found, just over half of the families caring for someone with dementia believed the same thing.

The new study updates global figures last reported in 2005, when British researchers estimated that more than 24 million people were living with dementia. Using that forecast, scientists had expected about 31 million people would be struggling with dementia by 2010.

But since 2005, a flurry of research on Alzheimer's in developing countries has been published, leading Alzheimer's Disease International - a nonprofit federation of more than 70 national groups - to ask those scientists to re-evaluate. After analyzing dozens of studies, the scientists projected 35.6 million cases of dementia worldwide by 2010.

That includes nearly 7 million people in Western Europe, nearly 7 million in South and Southeast Asia, about 5.5 million in China and East Asia and about 3 million in Latin America.

The report puts North America's total at 4.4 million, although the Alzheimer's Association of the U.S. uses a less conservative count to say more than 5 million people in this country alone are affected. The disease afflicts one in eight people 65 and older, and nearly one in two people over 85.

The report forecasts a more than doubling of dementia cases in parts of Asia and Latin America over the next 20 years, compared with a 40 percent to 60 percent jump in Europe and North America.

The report urges the World Health Organization to declare dementia a health priority and for national governments to follow suit. It recommends major new investments in research to uncover what causes and how to slow, if not stop, the creeping brain disease that gradually robs sufferers of their memories and ability to care for themselves, eventually killing them.

There is no known cure; today's drugs only temporarily alleviate symptoms. Scientists aren't even sure what causes Alzheimer's.

But major studies under way now should show within a few years if it's possible to at least slow the progression of Alzheimer's by targeting a gunky substance called beta-amyloid that builds up in patients' brains, noted Dr. William Thies of the U.S. Alzheimer's Association. His group is pushing for an increase in U.S. research spending, from just over $400 million to about $1 billion.

---

On the Net:

Alzheimer's Disease International: http://www.alz.co.uk/

Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Ebola in mind, US colleges screen some students

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Having a parent with dementia may affect memory in midlife

Feb 18, 2009

People who have parents diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia may be more likely to have memory loss themselves in middle age, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of ...

Prevalence of dementia in the developing world underestimated

Jul 28, 2008

Previous estimates of levels of dementia in the developing world may have substantially underestimated the problem, according to research published today. The findings suggest that policymakers in low-income and middle-income ...

Rapid weight loss may herald Alzheimer's

Sep 12, 2006

U.S. researchers say the slow, steady weight loss associated with aging may speed up prior to the onset of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

Alzheimer's cost triple that of other elderly

Mar 24, 2009

(AP) -- The health care costs of Alzheimer's disease patients are more than triple those of other older people, and that doesn't even include the billions of hours of unpaid care from family members, a new report suggests.

Scientists find new cause of Alzheimer's

Apr 19, 2006

Belgium researchers say they are the first to demonstrate the quantity of amyloid protein in brain cells is a major factor of Alzheimer's disease.

Recommended for you

Ebola in mind, US colleges screen some students

3 hours ago

University students from West Africa may be subject to extra health checks when they arrive to study in the United States as administrators try to insulate their campuses from the worst Ebola outbreak in ...

WHO: More Ebola cases in past week than any other

4 hours ago

The past week has seen the highest increase of Ebola cases since the outbreak in West Africa began, the World Health Organization said Friday, offering more evidence that the crisis is worsening.

Guidelines presented for diagnosing focal liver lesions

19 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Focal liver lesions (FLLs) are mostly benign, and can be diagnosed based on knowledge of their presentation, associated clinical and laboratory features, and natural history, according to clinical ...

User comments : 0