The most common form of dementia among older people is Alzheimer’s disease. About 4.5 million Americans suffer from this condition, which usually begins after age 60. Mental decline in Alzheimer’s disease shows up first as loss of memory function. Next to be affected are emotions and inhibitions. Brain lesions, called amyloid plaques and tangles, accumulate, causing a declining ability to cope with everyday life as brain cells die. An Alzheimer's diagnosis for you or your loved one may raise a lot of questions. Here are the most important stats about Alzheimer’s disease:
Women have a higher risk
Nearly twice as many women have AD as men, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AD also worsens more quickly in women than it does in men. Brain shrinkage tends to be more severe in women with AD than in men with the disease. Researchers suggest that brain changes in women with AD may be due to other causes.
Your heart and your head are closely related
Heart disease can raise your risk of getting AD. Other conditions that cause heart disease are also linked to a higher risk of getting AD, including:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- poor diet
- non-active lifestyle
Heart disease may also be a cause of vascular dementia, which results from narrowed blood vessels in the brain. This leads to a decrease in oxygen to brain tissues.
Education can lower your risk
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the more education you have, the lower your risk of getting AD. You have lower odds of getting AD if you keep your brain active in old age by doing activities such as:
- taking classes
- learning languages
- playing musical instruments
Doing group activities or interacting with others also may lower your risk.
AD is a leading cause of death
The Alzheimer's Association states that AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. About one in three seniors die with AD or another form of dementia. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that AD claimed more than 84,000 lives in the U.S. Only heart disease, cancer, some respiratory diseases, stroke, and accidents caused more deaths than AD.
- More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease
- Alzheimer’s incidence is rising along with the aging population
- The prevalence of the disease doubles every 5 years after age 65
- About 500,000 Americans younger than 65 have early onset Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is costly
With an estimated five million Americans who have AD, the cost for treating the disease continues to rise. In 2016 that figure reached about $236 billion, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The number of Americans with the disease is expected to increase in the years ahead. It’s estimated that AD may cost the U.S. more than $1 trillion by 2050.
Our overall health habits can help reduce the risk of age-related illnesses. Leisure activities such as reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments, and dancing are associated with a reduced risk of dementia.