More than 6 million Americans are now living with Alzheimer’s disease but by 2050, that number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million, according to Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, an annual report released by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Older adults that have more memory or thinking problems than other adults their age suffer from a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI.
The Alzheimer’s Association 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report unearthed new insights related to challenges both doctors and the American public face in understanding and diagnosing MCI, which is characterized by subtle changes in memory and thinking, and it reveals the burden of Alzheimer’s and dementia on individuals, caregivers, government and the nation’s health care system.
It is estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of individuals with MCI go on to develop dementia each year and as the size of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to grow (from 58 million in 2021 to 88 million by 2050), so too will the number and proportion of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias considering the increased risk of dementia with advancing age.
There is no single cause of MCI. The risk of developing MCI increases as someone gets older. Conditions such as diabetes, depression, and stroke may increase a person’s risk for MCI.
The report found that 11 million Americans are providing uncompensated care for someone with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairments but about 80 percent of the nation’s population is largely unaware of the disease and MCI.
An accompanying special report, More Than Normal Aging: Understanding Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), for the first time examined both public and primary care physicians’ (PCP) understanding of real-world awareness, diagnosis and treatment of MCI and MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.
“Mild cognitive impairment is often confused with ‘normal aging,’ but is not part of the typical aging process,” said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., chief science officer, Alzheimer’s Association. “Distinguishing between cognitive issues resulting from normal aging, those associated with MCI and those related to MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease is critical in helping individuals, their families and physicians prepare for future treatment and care.”
It is estimated 12% to 18% of people age 60 or older have MCI.
While some individuals with MCI revert to normal cognition or remain stable, studies suggest 10% to 15% of individuals with MCI go on to develop dementia each year.
About one-third of people with MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease develop Alzheimer’s dementia within five years. Identifying which individuals living with MCI are more likely to develop dementia is a major goal of current research, potentially enabling earlier disease intervention and treatment.
Because MCI may be an early sign of more serious memory problems, it’s important to see a doctor or specialist every six to 12 months. A doctor can help track changes in memory and thinking skills over time. Keeping a record of any changes can also be helpful.
People with MCI might also consider participating in clinical trials or studies. Clinical trials are research studies that help test if a treatment, like a new drug, is safe and effective in people. People with and without memory problems can take part in clinical trials, which may help themselves, their families, or future generations.
To find out more about participating in clinical trials for people with memory problems and people without cognitive impairment, visit Alzheimers.gov or call the Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at 1-800-438-4380.