Archive for September, 2011

Alzheimer’s Action Day

Today is Alzheimer’s Action Day and September is World Alzheimer’s Month. Let’s all wear purple and show our support.

You’ve seen the staggering figures. There are already more than 5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and by 2050 as many as 16 million Americans will have the disease. Will you be counted in that figure? Let’s do all we can to take care of ourselves and to support the Alzheimer’s Association to eliminate this awful disease.


According to the 2010 World Alzheimer Report as produced by the Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are approximately 35.6 million dementia cases in the world. In the 2011 Facts & Figures of the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A new mathematical model created by scientists (for mid-life hypertension, diabetes, smoking, mid-life obesity, depression, physical inactivity and low educational attainment) allowed them to estimate the entire number of Alzheimer’s disease risk attributable to lifestyle risk factors both in the world and US combined.

The researchers reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2011 that the proportion of worldwide and United States (US) Alzheimer’s cases could be attributed to seven key risk factors:

Risk Factor World US
Physical Inactivity 13% 21%
Depression 11% 15%
Smoking 14% 11%
Mid-life Hypertension 5% 8%
Mid-life Obesity 2% 7%
Low Education 19% 7%
Diabetes 2% 3%

Altogether, the seven possible modifiable risk factors contributed to 50% of cases of Alzheimer’s worldwide while in the US, the number is 54%. Researchers were similarly surprised that factors such as smoking and physical inactivity contribute to a large quantity of cases compared to cardiovascular disease. However, this also suggests that simple changes in lifestyle such as regular physical activity and stopping smoking could have a drastic impact on the cases of Alzheimer’s disease over time.

According to calculations, a 10% decrease in all the risk factors could halt 1.1 million cases of Alzheimer’s worldwide as well as 184,000 cases in America. Take note that a reduction of 25% in all the risk factors could halt more than three million cases of Alzheimer’s in the world and 492,000 cases in America.

In the study conducted by Deborah Barnes,  Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California – San Francisco and  San Francisco and Mental Health Research PI at the Veterans Affair Medical Center at San Francisco, she reports that what mattered was the common risk factors in the population. She adds that the study’s focus was how the risk factors were common within the population. In the US alone, a third of the population leads a sedentary lifestyle. A large quantity of cases could be attributed to physical inactivity. Smoking similarly contributed to a large number of cases.

According to Barnes, the estimates offer a valuable assumption – that there is a direct relationship between the studied risk factors as well as Alzheimer’s disease. The next step is to do an intervention to discover if changing such risk factors will decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s. The results of the study are to be published on the Lancet Neurology online.

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