A plan that addresses the medical costs of dementia in an aging population has to center on prevention, Cole said. "There should be far more government resources aimed at a serious efforts at finding and implementing low-cost prevention methods," he said.
Currently, an estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's or a similar dementia. Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading killer in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a related development, under new autopsy guidelines drafted by the U.S. National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association, pathologists are encouraged to look for Alzheimer's-related brain changes in dead people who may not have exhibited memory loss or other symptoms of dementia.
Previous guidelines, adopted in 1997, called for an autopsy check when a dead person had a diagnosis of dementia to determine if Alzheimer's had contributed to the dementia.
"The new criteria no longer require a dementia diagnosis while the person was living, as studies suggest that Alzheimer's develops years before it becomes clinically evident and research has revealed that the brains of even cognitively normal people may have Alzheimer's-related brain changes," the NIH said in a news release Wednesday.
An overview of the revised guidelines is published online Jan. 18 in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.
For more on Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association.
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