Today, more than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease, which is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. In addition, according to the World Health Organization, over 35 million people globally suffer from either Alzheimer’s or dementia. Those numbers are expected to triple by 2050, straining the health care system and impacting the well-being of caregivers.
To understand the scope of the problem, consider this: by the middle of the century, nearly 14 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s, with half of them over the age of 85. That’s greater than the entire population of the state of Illinois.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the effect of Alzheimer’s on health care costs is expected to exceed $2 trillion. This increase is largely the result of aging Baby Boomers and their improved longevity. As people are living longer, deaths from other causes like heart disease and prostate cancer are going down. Unfortunately, age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. And as the population continues to age, Alzheimer’s will become a problem of epidemic proportions.
Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top six killers in the USA for which there is no prevention, cure or treatment. While the government has boosted funding in recent years (to over $606 million in 2012), when compared to the attention paid to diseases like HIV ($3 billion in funding) and cancer ($6 billion in funding), Alzheimer’s trails badly in attention and resources.