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Ranks of Alzheimer's Patients Swell

5.3 Million Americans Have Alzheimer’s, and That Number Is Expected to Rise
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 27, 2009 -- An estimated 5.3 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease -- a number that is expected to rise in coming years. The disease was the sixth leading cause of death in this country in 2006. The price tag is also big, with an estimated $148 billion annually in direct and indirect costs related to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

These are some of the facts reported in the 2009 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, a statistical resource for U.S. data related to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. The annual report is put out by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Every 70 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. A person will develop the disease every 33 seconds by the middle of this century.

By 2010, there will be 454,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s each year, according to the report. By 2050, there will be 959,000 new cases per year.

The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, though a small minority of cases can be traced to a rare, genetic variation. From 2000 to 2006, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased by 47.1%. During this time, deaths from other diseases such as heart disease, breast cancer, and prostate cancer decreased.

The costs are high. In 2004, Medicare, Medicaid, and all other payment sources except HMOs paid more per person for people over 65 with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia than for people over 65 without dementia. Medicare payments were an average of three times higher for people with Alzheimer’s. Medicaid payments were nine times higher. Private insurance payments were 26 times higher.

The toll can be hard on caregivers who aren’t getting paid. In 2008, there were nearly 10 million caregivers in the U.S. providing 8.5 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $94 billion. That’s a $5 billion increase from last year’s report.

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