Since age is the major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, health officials worry that the huge and aging Baby Boom population is going to lead to a staggering increase in the affliction.
Now comes word that British health researchers have concluded that longer life spans mean more people will suffer dementia at some point. Their report, produced for Alzheimer's Research UK, predicts that one in three Britons born this year will be affected by loss of cognitive ability at some point in their lives.
Alzheimer's is the most common brain disease but is not the only one. The various dementias result in the loss of brain cells and impair the brain’s ability to function properly.
Early symptoms can include problems with memory and thinking. As more brain cells die, physical functions such as walking and even swallowing can be affected. There is no cure, although a new drug that may slow or stop Alzheimer’s will soon undergo Phase 3 clinical trials.
While the research focuses on people living in the UK, similar results can be expected for other Western countries, including the U.S.
More women than men
The report estimates that 32% of people born in the UK in 2015 will develop dementia during their lifetime. Women are more likely than men to develop the disease – 37% to 27%.
“These figures underline a stark reality: as people are living longer, more and more people will develop dementia in the future if action is not taken now to tackle the condition,” said Matthew Norton, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “It’s wonderful news that each generation is living longer than the last, but it’s important to ensure that people can enjoy these extra years in good health.”
The research team previously concluded that if science is able to produce a treatment that could delay the onset of dementia by five years, it would reduce the number of cases by one-third. Major research is underway to do just that.
A year ago researchers in California reported stunning results after a small study of patients just diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. They administered a novel and complex treatment they say restored memory function in nine out of ten study participants.
The treatment consists of a 36-point therapeutic program involving comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific drugs and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.
It is the first Alzheimer's research to suggest that memory loss in patients may be reversed, and that improvement can be lasting.