PEORIA — The number of Illinois residents being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is increasing, according to the Alzheimer’s Association's 2019 facts and figures report released last week.
An estimated 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, including 230,000 in Illinois. This number is up 10,000 from 2018 and 20,000 from 2015. The national number is expected to nearly triple by 2050 if a treatment is not found.
The number of Alzheimer’s deaths in Illinois are on the rise as well. In Illinois, there were 4,021 deaths from Alzheimer’s disease in 2017 — a 9 percent increase from 2015. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in both Illinois and the U.S. and the only disease in the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression.
Between 2000 and 2017 deaths from heart disease have decreased 9 percent while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 145 percent.
The report also noted a disconnect between seniors and physicians when it comes to cognitive assessment, a brief evaluation for cognitive impairment performed by a health care provider. Despite a strong belief among seniors and primary care physicians that brief cognitive assessments are important, only half of seniors are being assessed for thinking and memory issues, and much fewer receive routine assessments.
“While it’s encouraging to see that the vast majority of seniors and physicians understand the value of brief cognitive assessments, we’re still seeing a significant gap in those that actually pursue, perform or discuss these assessments during routine exams,” said Joanne Pike, chief program officer for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Early detection of cognitive decline offers numerous medical, social, emotional, financial and planning benefits, but these can only be achieved by having a conversation with doctors about any thinking or memory concerns and through routine cognitive assessments.”
The survey found that while half of all seniors (51 percent) are aware of changes in their cognitive abilities — including changes in their ability to think, understand or remember — only four in 10 have ever discussed these concerns with a health care provider, and fewer than one in seven seniors report having ever brought up cognitive concerns on their own.
The full text of this year's Facts and Figures report can be viewed at www.alz.org/facts.