Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Alzheimer's disease, dementia on the rise

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...
English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dementia cases to 'double every 20 years' worldwide

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

Alzheimer's disease and other dementias will afflict 35.6 million people in 2010, about 10 per cent more than previously estimated because of a higher number of cases in developing countries than doctors realised, said researchers.

The number of dementia sufferers may almost double every 20 years to 115.4 million in 2050, said researchers at Alzheimer's Disease International in a report. The report's authors had previously projected lower numbers in a 2005 article in the Lancet.

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

The report recommends that the World Health Organization declare dementia a health priority, and that countries including the US develop a plan for dealing with the greater numbers of dementia patients.

''We are facing an emergency,'' said Dr Daisy Acosta, who heads Alzheimer's Disease International, which released the report yesterday.

Lower and middle-income countries have the fastest increase in prevalence in the next 20 years. Alzheimer's disease and other dementias cost US$315 billion ($446.8 billion) a year, according to an estimate from Sweden's Karolinska Institute cited by the paper.

Dementia care costs are rising fastest in low and middle income countries. There is no known cure; today's drugs only temporarily alleviate symptoms. Scientists aren't even sure what causes Alzheimer's. AGENCIES

From TODAY, World – Tuesday, 22-Sep-2009