A new study about death and Alzheimer’s disease made headlines yesterday.  It revealed what all of us in the Alzheimer’s community already knew: Alzheimer’s disease is a “sleeping giant” and it is dramatically under-reported as the cause of death, especially in older Americans.

The study, published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, reveals that deaths are categorized and recorded by the cause listed on death certificates.

However, those numbers are deceiving as many death certificates list an immediate cause of death, such as pneumonia, while the deceased may have had Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia for many years.  Alzheimer’s degrades the brain severely, leaving a person vulnerable for many other medical complications.  In other words: Yes, the deceased had pneumonia, but it was not the root cause of death.  At the root, there was Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has Alzheimer’s disease listed as the nation’s sixth leading cause of death, but this latest study would move it up to third place, just behind heart disease and cancer.

This is one more huge piece of evidence that we need in the battle against Alzheimer’s.  But will it make any real difference?

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs at the Alzheimer’s Association, said, “We would like to see a response that is commensurate with the problem.”

“Alzheimer’s disease…needs to be taken seriously, and if we have the right kind of investment as a country, then we will be able to makes strides similar to what we’ve made in heart disease, HIV and cancer,” said Fargo.

Congress recently allotted more funds for research — $122 million.  That’s a start.  What we actually need is more in the range of two billion.  This may sound like an astronomical number.  However, it is miniscule compared to the personal and government financial outlay that is anticipated if we don’t find a cure or at least effective treatments for the disease.

What are the anticipated costs?  By 2050, the projected cost of Alzheimer’s will be a trillion dollars.

Let’s pay the two billion now, rather than paying so much more later.

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