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Sept. 21, 2018, 11:59 a.m. EDT

Alzheimer’s and dementia are expected to grow, and could affect minority groups more

Americans of Hispanic heritage are set to have the largest increase in cases over the next few decades

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By Emma Court


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The burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in the U.S. is expected to double by 2060, when they could affect nearly 14 million older Americans, according to a new peer-reviewed journal article .

The latest findings, though similar to other estimates of the diseases and their growth, particularly focus on expected increases in minority populations.

By absolute numbers, non-Hispanic whites are expected to have the most Alzheimer’s and dementia cases in the next decades. But those increases are expected to slow down and even out around 2030, according to the study, while diagnoses in minority populations should keep growing.

Related: This is the one thing you must do if you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s

In particular, Americans of Hispanic heritage are set to have the largest increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia cases over the next few decades, according to the latest projections.

These findings reinforce that “culturally competent care for these groups will be of paramount importance,” the study’s researchers found, including developing culturally sensitive materials and evaluations, understanding the needs of a diverse group of caregivers and individuals with dementia and training culturally competent health-care providers. Early diagnosis been shown to reduce the burden of these diseases, the article noted.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia describe serious declines in memory and other cognitive abilities; aging is often, but not always, a risk factor for the diseases.

They are major public health issues, killing more individuals in the U.S. than breast and prostate cancer combined, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The diseases also require significant and often unpaid caregiving, presenting financial and other major stressors, which are only likely to grow as diagnoses increase. Though many efforts are under way to develop medications that could prevent Alzheimer’s disease, none have so far proven successful.

Read: There’s new evidence that the dominant approach to Alzheimer’s may be completely wrong

The Thursday study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, which is put out by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Its analysis was based on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and related dementia in Medicare beneficiaries, who were specifically diagnosed by a doctor in a medical setting, as well as census projections.

See: 5 ways to help fight Alzheimer’s — according to Bill Gates

However, the research did zero in on Medicare patients on a particular fee-for-service health insurance model, which could be a limitation if these diseases have a different prevalence in other models, the authors noted.

The claims data that the study used may also not be reliable, the authors noted; they also pointed out that claims don’t include patient demographics like race and ethnicity.

Biopharmaceutical companies involved in Alzheimer’s drug development include Biogen Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201531540/composite BIIB -6.11%  , Eisai Co. Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203064480/delayed JP:4523 -3.88%  , Roche Holding AG /zigman2/quotes/208994986/delayed RHHBY +1.02%  , Merck & Co. /zigman2/quotes/209956077/composite MRK +1.03%  , Eli Lilly & Co. /zigman2/quotes/200106384/composite LLY +7.31%   and AstraZeneca PLC /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN +0.76%  , among others.

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Emma Court covers healthcare for MarketWatch from New York. You can follow her on Twitter @EmmaRCourt.

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