Areas of the US with the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s have been revealed — the East Coast and the Southeast are more likely to have memory-robbing disorders in older adults.
A new report from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) provides the most granular look yet at the prevalence of the condition, providing county-level rate estimates for the first time.
It shows that overall, 6.7 million Americans over age 65 have the disease — roughly one in ten — in some counties, the share is as high as one in six.
For example, in the top three cities — Miami, Baltimore and the Bronx — approximately one in six people have the condition.
The top five counties for Alzheimer’s disease include Prince George’s County, Maryland (16.1 percent) and Hinds County, Mississippi (15.5 percent).
It comes after trial results of the drug donanemeb showed it could slow up to 60 per cent of early-stage Alzheimer’s in a breakthrough hailed as a ‘turning point’ in the fight against the disease.
Hover over your county to see Alzheimer’s rates among people over 65
County with the highest rates of Alzheimer’s
Miami-Dade County, FL
Baltimore City, MD
Bronx County, NY
C. of Prince George, MD
Hinds County, MS
Orleans Parish, LA
Dougherty C. GA
Orangeburg County, SC
Imperial County, CA
El Paso, TX
Ratio (%), 2020
The data is for the proportion of the population aged 65 and over
Counties with the lowest Alzheimer’s rates
Loving County, TX
Aleutian Census Area, AL
Gilpin County, CO
Park County, CO
San Miguel County, CO
Hanson County, SD
Summit County, CO
North Slope, AL
Prince of Wales, AL
Bethel Census Area, AL
Ratio (%), 2020
The data is for the proportion of the population aged 65 and over
Alzheimer’s Association researchers used the latest data from 2020 on thousands of people over the age of 65 to map the proportion of seniors with the disease in all 3,142 U.S. counties.
The association said the report, presented at its conference in Amsterdam this week, aims to inform authorities where Alzheimer’s resources are most needed. Experts say it could also prompt people to get tested for the disease, as many go undiagnosed at a later stage.
The data showed that Florida’s Miami-Dade County had the highest proportion of residents over 65 with Alzheimer’s disease, at about 16.6 percent of the population.
Although Miami is famous as a party destination, the researchers noted that it has a large black and Hispanic population — who are 2.5 times more at risk of the disease than their white counterparts.
They said that other regions with higher rates tend to have more ethnically diverse populations, which inflates estimates of the proportion of people with the disease.
In terms of population, the counties with the highest populations of people with Alzheimer’s disease were Los Angeles County (1.4 million people), Cook County, Illinois (792,000) and Maricopa County, Arizona (729,000).
The above pie chart is constructed from data from Rajan et al. Percentages do not sum to 100 due to rounding
In the top three cities — Miami, Baltimore and the Bronx — approximately one in six people have the condition. The top five counties for Alzheimer’s disease include Prince George’s County, Maryland (16.1 percent) and Hinds County, Mississippi (15.5 percent).
Miami-Dade County was fourth on the list at 459,000 and Harris County, Texas was fifth at 532,000.
Nationally, researchers say Alzheimer’s is most common in the eastern and southeastern regions of the United States.
The scientists calculated the estimates using data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, which tracked 10,000 people over the age of 65 for nearly two decades to reveal which health problems — including Alzheimer’s — were present.
The researchers used this data to estimate the proportion of residents in each county with Alzheimer’s based on each county’s age breakdown as well as their gender and ethnicity.
At the other end of the scale, they found that sparsely populated counties with smaller elderly populations in Alaska, Texas, Colorado and South Dakota had the lowest proportions of residents with Alzheimer’s. Fewer than one in 20 people were estimated to be infected in some remote counties.
The report also found that people in their 80s are more likely to develop the disease than younger people.
People aged 85 and over were 15 times more likely to develop the disease than people aged 65 to 69, they said, while those aged 75 to 79 were almost three times more likely to develop it.
Older women were also about 13 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than men, the report added.
Broken down by racial group, the rate among black seniors was about 2.5 times higher than that of their white counterparts.
Dr. Kumar Rajan, an internal medicine specialist at Rush Medical College in Chicago, who led the study, told CNN: ‘Half, or even more than half, of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are actually undiagnosed.
‘Why this is happening is complex.
‘Some individuals and families do not recognize it as dementia, confusing it with normal ageing. And we know that doctors don’t always ask about it, so it doesn’t come up unless the family brings it up. And doctors may be reluctant to diagnose and share.’
He added that some cities, such as Baltimore, may have higher rates because of larger black populations. He said of Baltimore: ‘This is a predominately black city, and the root of all this is the segregation of neighborhoods that goes back decades.’
According to the AAIC, about 6.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.
Imperial County, California has the highest number of patients, with a rate of 15 percent.
But population projections suggest that the American West and Southwest regions will likely see an increase in the number of patients in the coming years.
Matthew Baumgart, AAIC’s vice-president of health policy, said: ‘As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease continues to rise, a greater workforce trained to diagnose, treat and care for people with the disease is needed.’
This week, in a ‘defining moment’ in dementia research, trial results of donanemab showed that it significantly delayed the deterioration of symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s.
It is the second treatment after lecanemab to offer hope to patients in what experts hail as the ‘decade of Alzheimer’s’, which could one day rival other long-term conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
Estimated annual incidence of dementia based on current rates (solid line) and projected incidence of dementia assuming a continuing downward trend (dashed line)
Donanemeb is given to Alzheimer’s patients by IV infusion once a month. Monoclonal antibodies—a man-made version of proteins produced by the body to fight harmful substances—travel to the brain. Once inside the organ, donanemab binds to the toxic build-up of amyloid plaques—a hallmark of the memory-robbing disease. This prompts immune cells known as microglia to clear
Scientists say it ends a decades-long debate over whether sticky plaques or the accumulation of amyloid are at least partially responsible for the degenerative disease.
Donanemeb is given to Alzheimer’s patients by IV infusion once a month. Monoclonal antibodies—a man-made version of proteins produced by the body to fight harmful substances—travel to the brain.
Once inside the organ, donanemab binds to the toxic build-up of amyloid plaques—a hallmark of the memory-robbing disease. This prompts immune cells known as microglia to clear.
This comes after Eisai and Biogen’s lecanemab showed a 27 percent slower reduction, leading to its FDA approval earlier this month.
The scientists said the success of both donanemab and lecanemab ended a decades-long debate over whether amyloid — the buildup of sticky plaques — is at least partially responsible for the degenerative disease.
What is Alzheimer’s and how is it treated?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which nerve cells die as a result of the formation of abnormal proteins.
It disrupts the transmitters that carry messages and shrinks the brain.
More than 5 million people in the US suffer from the disease, where it is the 6th leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.
As brain cells die, the function they provide is lost.
These include memory, adaptation and the ability to think and reason.
The progression of the disease is slow and gradual.
On average, people live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live ten to 15 years.
Short-term memory loss Dissociation Behavioral changes Mood changes Difficulty dealing with money or making phone calls
Severe memory loss, forgets close family members, familiar objects or places, becomes anxious and depressed over the inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior May eventually lose the ability to walk May have trouble eating Most will eventually require 24-hour care
How is it treated?
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
However, some treatments are available that help relieve some symptoms.
One of these is Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors which help brain cells communicate with each other.
Another is menantine, which works by blocking a chemical called glutamate that can impair mental function in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s patients may begin to exhibit aggressive behavior and/or suffer from depression. Medicines may be given to help alleviate these symptoms.
Other non-pharmaceutical treatments, such as cognitive training to improve memory, can help combat one aspect of Alzheimer’s disease.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association and NHS
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