SALT LAKE CITY -- While deaths from heart disease, stroke and HIV/AIDS continue to decline, that's not the case with Alzheimer's disease.
According to the Alzheimer's Association Alzheimer's Disease Facts & Figures report released this week, one in three seniors in the U.S. dies with Alzheimer's or another dementia, a 68 percent increase between 2000 and 2010.
Utah is home to 32,000 people suffering from the disease, with 137,000 families and individuals caring for them. Nationally, 5 million people are living with Alzheimer's, and by 2050, that number is expected to be as high as 16 million.
"With deaths from this disease continuing to rise, it's clear that urgent, meaningful action is necessary," said Jack Jenks, executive director of the Utah chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country and is the only leading cause of death without a way to prevent, cure or even slow down its progression, Jenks said. The report states that approximately 450,000 people across the nation will die from the disease this year. However, the actual number of deaths from Alzheimer's could be higher.
Also, according to the report, among 70-year-olds with Alzheimer's, 61 percent are expected to die within a decade. For those without the disease, only 30 percent are expected to die within a decade.
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with thinking, memory and behavior. Some of the early symptoms include memory loss that disrupts daily life, difficulty completing familiar tasks, misplacing things, not being able to retrace your steps, and changes in mood and personality.
The causes are not fully understood. What is clear, however, is that the disease kills and damages brain cells and there is no cure.
Alzheimer's disease steals everything -- steadily, relentlessly, inevitably, said Robert Egge, vice president of public policy for the Alzheimer's Association.
"With baby boomers reaching the age of elevated risk, we do not have time to do what we have always done," he said in a news release. "The National Institutes of Health needs to reset its priorities and focus its resources on the crisis at our doorstep and Congress must fully fund implementation of the National Alzheimer's Plan to solve the crisis."
The disease places an enormous burden on the nation's health care system. According to the report, the total payments for health and long-term care for Alzheimer's and other dementias will total $203 billion this year. By 2050, those costs are projected to increase to $1.2 trillion.
Caregivers are also tremendously affected by the disease.
Nearly 15 percent of caregivers for people with Alzheimer's or other dementias are long-distance caregivers who live at least one hour away. In 2012, long-distance caregivers had an average out-of-pocket expense of $9,654 compared with $5,055 for local caregivers.
The full report can be found at www.alz.org and will appear in this month's issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.