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Number of Americans with Alzheimer's expected to soar in coming decades

The number of people living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias will double by 2060, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause among those aged 65 and older. It's an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly robs people of memory and, eventually, a person's ability to perform even the simplest tasks. There is no cure.

In 2014, there were 5 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias – about 1.6 percent of the U.S. population. That number is projected to grow to 13.9 million, nearly 3.3 percent of the population, in 2060.

"This study shows that as the U.S. population increases, the number of people affected by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias will rise, especially among minority populations," said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. "Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future."

Following a couple from diagnosis to the final stages of Alzheimer’s 13:17

The paper, published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, is the first to break down projections for  Alzheimer's disease by race and ethnicity. The researchers believe Hispanic Americans will have the largest increase due to their expected population growth in the coming decades.

Currently, among adults aged 65 and older, African-Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, at 13.8 percent. This is followed by Hispanics, at 12.2 percent; non-Hispanic whites, at 10.3 percent; American Indian and Alaska Natives, at 9.1 percent; and Asian and Pacific Islanders, at 8.4 percent.

Dementia is more prevalent in women, at 12.2 percent, than in men, at 8.6 percent. The study says there are currently nearly 3.2 women in the U.S. living with dementia, compared to nearly 1.8 million men. Those figures are projected to rise to 8.5 million women and nearly 5.4 million men by 2060.

By 2060, the CDC researchers project that there will be more than 7 million non-Hispanic whites, 3.2 million Hispanics and 2.2 million African-Americans with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in the U.S. The authors say the estimated increases are a result of fewer people dying from other chronic diseases and surviving into older adulthood when the risk for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias increases.

How a unique chorus group is giving a voice to people with Alzheimer's 04:23

The estimates are based on population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau and percentages of Medicare Fee-for-Service beneficiaries ages 65 years and older with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The paper also focuses on the need to provide support to caregivers with loved ones living with dementia. The researchers note that an early diagnosis can help caregivers plan ahead for the life changes that come with caring for a friend or family member with the disease.

"It is important for people who think their daily lives are impacted by memory loss to discuss these concerns with a health care provider," said Kevin Matthews, Ph.D., health geographer and lead author of the study. "An early assessment and diagnosis is key to planning for their health care needs, including long-term services and supports, as the disease progresses."

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