Archive for March, 2011

Last week the Alzheimer’s Association released its new 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report. The statistics are grim. It is the sixth leading cause of death and of the top 10, it’s the only one where we do not know exactly how it can be prevented, cured, or slowed. Yes, we do have many research studies going on, but there has not been anything definitive. Most of the studies are just the tip of the iceberg and require further research. Some have produced disappointments. Highlights from the report include the following:

  • An estimated 5.4 million American’s have Alzheimer’s disease. Another American develops Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds.
  • In 2010, 14.9 million family and friends provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
  • The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society will total $183 billion in 2011.
  • Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2008, and Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.

The complete 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report allows you to get information specific to your state. Let’s hope we will have a major breakthrough this year and the 2012 report will be a lot more promising.

The Alzheimer’s Association produced a video capturing these statistics.

Misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

Having grown up in Hawaii and having a father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), this article published in caught my attention. Furthermore, this study was done on 426 Japanese American men who were residents of Hawaii and who had passed away at an average age of 87. My father who died at 85 was a Japanese American man living in Hawaii. Of the 426 men, 211 had been diagnosed with dementia (mostly AD) while they were living. However, the study found that about half of the 211 “did not have sufficient numbers of the brain lesions characterizing that condition to support the diagnosis.”

The brain autopsies that were performed showed that some of the cases of severe dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were misdiagnosed before death. Misdiagnoses increase with aging and also the manifestations of dementia are non-specific.
The article goes on to say that brain lesions are areas of the brain which have been damaged by disease, congenital malformation, trauma, or other causes. Lesions, such as abnormal protein plaques and tangled fibers, proliferate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than five million Americans. Dementia, a condition marked by cognitive decline that interferes with daily life, is most often caused by Alzheimer’s.

According to author Lon White, MD, MPH, with the Kuakini Medical System in Honolulu:

Diagnosing specific dementias in people who are very old is complex, but with the large increase in dementia cases expected within the next 10 years in the United States, it will be increasingly important to correctly recognize, diagnose, prevent and treat age-related cognitive decline. Larger studies are needed to confirm these findings and provide insight as to how we may more accurately diagnose and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other principal dementing disease processes in the elderly.

The research was released February 24 and will be presented as part of a plenary session at the American Academy of Neurology’s  63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9 to April 16, 2011. The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For a discussion on the stages of Alzheimer’s disease, see a previous post.

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