Report Says Women Twice As Likely To Develop Alzheimer's As Breast Cancer

Thursday, March 20, 2014

According to the Alzheimer's Association 2014 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report released Wednesday, a woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 6, compared with nearly 1 in 11 for a man. As real a concern as breast cancer is to women's health, women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer, the report said.*

“We have known that women are the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease – making up the majority of both people living with the disease and caregivers,” says Amy French, manager of programs and education. 

There are 2.5 times as many women than men providing intensive “on-duty” care 24 hours for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. Among caregivers who feel isolated, women are much more likely than men to link isolation with feeling depressed (17 percent of women versus 2 percent of men).

The report said the strain of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is also felt in the workplace. Among caregivers who have been employed while they were also caregiving: 

 20 percent of women versus 3 percent of men went from working full-time to working part-time while acting as a caregiver.

18 percent of women versus 11 percent of men took a leave of absence

11 percent of women versus 5 percent of men gave up work entirely

10 percent of women versus 5 percent of men lost job benefits

There are more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 110,000 in Tennessee, but Alzheimer’s has far reaching effects that can plague entire families, according to the report. There are 418,000 Alzheimer’s caregivers in Tennessee providing 476 million hours of unpaid care valued at more than $5 million.

The total national cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to reach $214 billion this year. In 2014, the cost to Medicare and Medicaid of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will reach a combined $150 billion with Medicare spending nearly $1 in every $5 on people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. 

These numbers are set to soar as the baby boomers continue to enter the age of greatest risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Unless something is done to change the course of the disease, there could be as many as 16 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s in 2050, at a cost of $1.2 trillion (in current dollars) to the nation. This dramatic rise includes a 500 percent increase in combined Medicare and Medicaid spending and a 400 percent increase in out-of-pocket spending. The country’s first-ever National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease has a goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Ensuring strong implementation of the National Alzheimer’s Plan, including adequately funding Alzheimer’s research, is the best way to avoid these staging human and financial tolls, according to the report.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, yet it is still widely misunderstood and underreported. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of both men and women agree with the mistaken belief that Alzheimer’s must run in their family for them to be at risk. When looking at certain ethnic groups, these numbers were even higher. A third of Latinos (33 percent) and almost half of Asians (45 percent) agreed with that incorrect statement. 

Realizing the impact Alzheimer’s has on women – and the impact women can have when they work together – the Alzheimer’s Association is launching a national initiative this spring highlighting the power of women in the fight against this disease. 

The full text of the Alzheimer's Association Facts and Figures can be viewed at The full report will also appear in the March issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association (Volume 10, Issue 2).

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