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Worldwide dementia care costs $601 billion in 2010 - report

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The global care cost for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia is estimated at US$601 billion for the year 2010, which is more than 1 percent of the global GDP in the same year, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report by the Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) says the care for an estimated 35.6 million people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, when viewed as a country, would be the world's 18th largest economy somewhere between Turkey and Indonesia; when viewed as a company, the cost would be more than the annual revenue of Wal-Mart ($414 billion) and Exxon Mobil ($311 billion).

The report, authored by Professor Anders Wimo of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and Professor Martin Prince at the Institute of Psychiatry of King's College London in the United Kingdom, also says the number of people with dementia is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

The care costs for people with dementia are likely, according to the report, to rise faster than the prevalence, particularly in the developing world.  Right now, higher costs are found mostly in developed countries.

The ADI predicts that the number of those diagnosed with dementia will double every 20 years to about 66 million in 2030 and 115 million in 2050 with developing countries having an even greater increase in the cases of dementia.

Overall, developed countries spend more money on each individual with dementia, mainly Alzheimer's disease, according to the report. Developing countries have 14 percent of the total cases, but their care costs are less than 1 percent of the total global cost. Middle income countries account for 40 percent of total cases, but their care costs account for 10 percent.

In the rich countries, cases of dementia account for 46 percent of the total, but their care costs account for 89 percent with 70 percent of the global cost occurring in Western Europe and North America.

These data seem to suggest that dementia is largely an affluent disease - a disease more commonly found in richer countries.

The Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association also released a 2010 report saying that the care cost for 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease is $172 billion a year. Per capita, the cost for each person with the disease is $32,453 annually.

Although the United States pays a high price for the care given patients with Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's disease mortality is on the rise.  The AA report says that Alzheimer's deaths increased 46.1 percent from 2000 to 2006.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease.  The disease destroys brain cells causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior to a degree that the patients are unable to live a normal life. There is no cure for the disease.

According to the AA, there are ten indicators that signal whether or not a person suffes from the disease. They include memory loss; difficulty planning or solving problems; difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure; confusion with time or place, difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships; new problems with speaking or writing; misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps; decreased or poor judgment; withdrawal from work or social activities; and changes in mood and personality.

It is commonly recognized that Alzheimer's disease is not a result of the normal aging process, meaning it is caused by something, which unfortunately remains unknown.

Many observational studies suggest that certain lifestyle parameters may increase or decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

What may be beneficial are B vitamins, Vitamin D, and a diet with high amounts of salad dressing, nuts, fish, poultry and certain fruits and vegetables, but low amounts of high fat dairy products, red meat, organ meats and butter.

Studies also suggest that green tea, curry, caloric restriction, grape see extract, red wine compound resveratrol, Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

By David Liu and editing by Rachel Stockton

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