Alzheimer's risk is growing and 46 million Americans now could be in the early stages of the brain disease, according to new estimates from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Keith Fargo, of the Alzheimer's Association, told NBC News that the UCLA study shows how
Alzheimer's will affect the country in the coming years. About 6.08 million Americans already have either clinical Alzheimer's or mild cognitive impairment due to the disease in 2017, according to the study.
The study was published this week in the peer-reviewed publication Alzheimer's and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.
"Because large numbers of persons are living with preclinical AD, our results underscore the need for secondary preventions for persons with existing AD brain pathology who are likely to develop clinical disease during their lifetimes as well as primary preventions for persons without preclinical disease," the study stated.
Researchers stated that of the 46.7 million Americans who could have preclinical Alzheimer's, many may not progress to the clinical-defined disease during their lifetimes.
Ron Brookmeyer, professor of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the study's lead author, said in a university statement that preclinical Alzheimer's means that the person has either a build-up of protein fragments called beta-amyloid or neurodegeneration of the brain but don't yet have symptoms.
"We need to have improved methods to identify which persons will progress to clinical symptoms, and develop interventions for them that could slow the progression of the disease, if not stop it all together," Brookmeyer said.
Researchers reviewed the largest studies available on rates of progression of Alzheimer's disease and used that information in a computer model they built that took into account the aging of the U.S. population, the UCLA statement said.
That computer model projected the numbers of people in preclinical and clinical disease states, UCLA said.
The study predicts that by 2060 about 5.7 million Americans will develop mild cognitive impairment and another 9.3 million will have dementia due to Alzheimer's. Some four million Americans in that group will need an intensive level of care, such as nursing homes, UCLA noted.
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