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Alzheimer’s and Baby Boomers: What you need to know

Alzheimer’s rates are expected to skyrocket to record high levels as baby boomers age, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that about 5.8 million Americans currently have the disease that’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

That number will climb to at least 13.8 million by 2050, a 138% rise, and as many as 1 in 3 people who live to be 85 in the United States will die with Alzheimer’s, the Free Press reported.

“We are really in an epidemic,” Dr. Eva Feldman, a University of Michigan neurologist, whose own mother suffers from Alzheimer’s, told the Free Press about a crisis that’s fueled by those born between 1946 and 1964 who are at or near an age when the disease most commonly manifests.

She said other risk factors include family history, type 2 diabetes and obesity, high blood pressure, previous brain trauma, and APOE-e4 status — “the first risk gene identified and remains the gene with strongest impact on risk.”

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).

Women also are at greater risk, as are people of African American and Latino descent.

According to the Free Press, caring for people with the disease and other forms of dementia will cost $290 billion this year. By 2050, it’s expected to rise to $1.1 trillion annually.

The Alzheimer’s Association says it’s the most expensive disease in America.

Alzheimer’s currently has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing.