NPR (October 8, 2018): A Brain Scientist Who Studies Alzheimer’s Explains How She Stays Mentally Fit

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) will increase some 178% among all Americans aged 65 years and older by 2060, but Hispanic, African American and other racial and ethnic groups will see the fastest growing rates.

They say the study of 28 million Medicare recipients fills a critical research gap because estimates of the future burden of ADRD in the U.S. population by age, sex, race and ethnicity did not exist before now.

Researchers showed that although the main risk factor for ADRD is age, race and ethnicity are important demographic risk factors to consider. But because of the lack of that data, researchers estimated ADRD in people aged 65 years and older by age, sex, race and ethnicity from 2015 to 2060 using Medicare numbers from 2014. At that time, some 11.5% of 3.2 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries had received a diagnosis of ADRD in 2014.

The study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia this month, concluded that while the burden of ADRD in 2014 was an estimated 5 million adults aged 65 years and older, there are significant imbalances in the number of sufferers defined by race and ethnicity. They predict that the ADRD burden will double from 1.6% of the population in 2014 to 3.3% by 2060, when some 13.9 million Americans are projected to have the disease. But the highest numbers will be among Hispanics and African Americans.

And because numbers were higher in U.S. minority group projections, the researchers are calling for a higher index of suspicion for early signs of ADRD, more screening and increased culturally competent care among these populations. They hope their estimates will be used to guide policy, planning and interventions related to caring for the ADRD population and supporting caregivers.

“Given the differences in the growth rates of different population subgroups in the United States, it is critical that culturally sensitive information be provided to obtain a diagnosis as early as possible and to improve the uptake of preventive health behaviors in all racial and ethnic subgroups in the United States,” wrote lead study author Kevin A. Matthews, of the Division of Population Health at the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in Atlanta, Georgia, along with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Morehouse School of Medicine.…

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