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Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive health problem in the United States.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive health problem in the United States, even though heart disease and cancer kill more people. New research puts the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease at around 4.1 million.

The annual cost to families and society is estimated to be between $157 billion and $215 billion. That breaks down to $41,000 to $56,000 per patient per year.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists aren’t even sure exactly what causes the protein buildup in the brain that leads to Alzheimer’s. Current treatments only ease symptoms and don’t slow the disease. On average, patients live four to eight years after diagnosis, but some live 20 years.

The Alzheimer’s Association says by age 80, about 75 percent of people with Alzheimer’s will be in a nursing home compared with only 4 percent of the general population.

Some studies suggest that Alzheimer’s disease, the leading form of dementia, can be prevented or delayed. Bradley S. Folley, Ph.D., ABPP, with Norton Neuroscience Institute says, “It is particularly important that we begin to study ‘at-risk’ individuals so we can identify the genetic and environmental triggers to the disorder, leading to preventive measures that can be applied.”


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