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Why is Brain (Cognitive)Health Important to Know About?

Page-4-Picture-(1).jpgAn aging population

Age is a risk factor for cognitive decline. In 2004, one in every eight Americans—36.3 million—were aged 65 years or older. By 2030, this number is expected to nearly double to 71.5 million. At that time, 20 percent of the population will be in this age group.

Growing fear and concern about memory loss

There is considerable concern among Americans about the loss of cognitive health to disease or disability, a concern that seems to increase with age. Most older adults look forward to having a long life and yet their greatest worries about living to age 75 revolve around memory loss.  According to a recent survey, adults are more than twice as likely to fear losing their mental capacity (62 percent) as their physical ability (29 percent).


Increasing burden from cognitive decline

In the United States, the societal burden of cognitive impairment has been expressed mainly in terms of prevalence, incidence, and mortality for dementia generally or for Alzheimer’s disease in particular. More recently, prevalence statistics for “mild cognitive impairment” or “cognitive impairment no dementia” have also appeared. Cognitive impairment no dementia refers to a level of cognitive impairment that is more serious than age-related cognitive impairment, but it is not as severe as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

  • Alzheimer’s disease has been in the top ten leading causes of death since the  twentieth century. Notably, the mortality rates for Alzheimer’s disease are on the rise—in contrast to the rates for heart disease and cancer, which are continuing to decline.
  • An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. That number has doubled since 1980, and is expected to be as high as 16 million by 2050.3
  • Studies from the United States and Canada have suggested that mild cognitive impairment or cognitive impairment no dementia may be a problem for 16-25 percent of the elderly population (65 and older).
  • In 2005, Medicare and Medicaid spent $91 billion and $21 billion, respectively, for persons with Alzheimer’s disease.  According to a 2004 report that analyzed Medicare claims data, older beneficiaries with dementia cost Medicare three times more than other older beneficiaries. Based on current estimates, these costs will double every ten years.

Source:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alzheimer’s Association. The Healthy Brain Initiative: A National Public Health Road Map to Maintaining Cognitive Health: Chicago, IL: Alzheimer’s Association; 2007