The Hidden Epidemic – Dementia

How and why we’re not prepared for an increase in cases

Dementia is a degenerative neurological disease, which is incurable and fatal, rendering a person unable to care for himself/herself. It can deplete family members emotionally and financially, yet there is insufficient funding to research this disease.

In America more than 5.4 million people are presently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the sixth leading cause of death. Neurological diseases cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed down. Major diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and HIV have decreased in death rates, whereas Alzheimer’s disease has increased by 66%, even though it is underdiagnosed.

Dr. Ken Dychtwald, founder and president of Age Wave, speaks of the “longevity revolution” caused by the progressive creation of antibiotics in the 1920s, the polio vaccine in 1950s, the increase in chronic disease management and the progress of medications, which have resulted in “more old people.” In 1900, the average age of death was 47 years, whereas in 2000 the average age of death was 78 years.

Dychtwald focused on the majority of the population, which is noted as the baby boomers born in 1946-1964. In the years 2000-2020, Dychtwald noted that a large portion of the population will be 55 or older. He states that society’s single greatest challenge will be that 1 in 2 people who are 85 or older will have dementia. There will not be enough resources to deal with this disease. Dychtwald calls for research to “wipe the disease out!”

Meryl Comer, CEO and president of Goeffrey Beene Foundation – Alzheimer’s Initiative, shares how caregivers hide the disease, bearing the brunt of the consequences while carefully protecting the dignity of the loved one.

Harry John, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, notes that our country spends $6 billion dollars on cancer research yearly, $4 billion on heart research yearly and $3 billion on HIV research yearly, whereas we only spend $1.5 billion on dementia. Results from this include decrease in deaths of a negative 3% to 8% in cancer, a negative 13% to 20% cardiovascular deaths, a negative 29% in HIV deaths and an increase of a positive 66% deaths in dementia. This does not reflect the huge number of the undiagnosed population with dementia.

Now is the time to act! Go to Hit the ‘Advocate or Walk to End Alzheimer’s’ tab. Help in any way you feel comfortable. Help on the micro level by helping someone you know who is forgetful. Help on the macro level by speaking to our politicians and advocating for those inflicted Alzheimer’s.

For more information, contact Chris Ridley of the Alzheimer’s Association at 443-7360.


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