Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 70% of cases. In Spain, it is estimated that more than 1,100,000 people suffer from it. It is a neurodegenerative disease that slowly alters the normal functioning of cognitive processes and the behaviour of the person, in such a way that it prevents their ability to lead an autonomous and independent life in their personal, familial, working and social spheres. In addition, it is not only a disease that affects only the person who suffers from it, but also affects the entire family environment which often experiences high levels of overload and destructuring. Alzheimer’s disease is therefore a family disease and its approach is therefore a challenge for today’s society.
It receives its name from the German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer who was the first to define it in 1906. The main risk factor for Alzheimer’s is old age are late onset, cases are increasingly occurring in young people under the age of 65.
The loss of memory is usually the first complaint that the patient expresses or that his relatives perceive, although other cognitive functions, such as attention and concentration, language, orientation in time and space, perception, the resolution of mathematical operations, intentional motor skills or the processing of complex thoughts, will also be affected as the disease progresses. Deterioration of cognitive faculties slowly reduces the patient’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities that allow him or her to live autonomously and integrated into their environment. Interest in behavioural disturbances has gained increasing importance in recent years and includes disturbances such as personality changes, apathy, lack of interest, agitation, irritability, anxiety, depression, delusional ideas, hallucinations or disturbances of sleep and appetite. For this reason, as life expectancy has increased, so has the number of people suffering from the disease.
Alzheimer's in numbres
Alzheimer’s and dementia: + 800 billion dollars.
1 in 3 elderly people die of Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
A new case appears every 3 seconds
In our country
1,100,000 patients in Spain.
Alzheimer’s disease is the greatest challenge facing medicine today: 50 new cases are diagnosed every hour in Europe and it can be said that it has developed into one of the greatest political and socio-health challenges. In Spain it affects more than 1,100,000 patients, a circumstance that affects the lives of 4,500,000 people. Its frequency increases from the age of 65 onwards: 10 percent of people over that age suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. According to data from the International Federation of Alzheimer’s Associations, it is estimated that 47 million people worldwide currently live with Alzheimer’s, and it is estimated that this figure will triple in 2050 as a result of the increase in life expectancy of the population and if no effective cure is found. Also its economic cost is currently a major public health problem: it is estimated that in Spain the disease costs per patient per year more than 30,000 euros. It is also considered that the family assumes 87% of the cost of care. The duration of the illness varies between 2 and 20 years.
The global cost of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is estimated at more than 800 billion US dollars.
1 in 3 elderly people die of Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
Nearly 10 million new cases of dementia occur each year, which means that a new case appears every 3 seconds.
In every family there is a primary caregiver who takes responsibility for caring for the sick person in a prominent way. In our country the great majority are women who tend to experience high levels of anxiety and depression due to the burden of stress and suffering to which they are subjected throughout the course of the illness. The sick person is the in-home caregiver in 8 out of 10 families over a 24-hour working day.
Science, the only solution
Although we know that in Alzheimer’s disease there is a loss of neurons and their connections between them, together with the accumulation of amyloid protein deposits in the form of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles containing hyperphosphorylated tau protein, the ultimate cause is unknown, which highlights the importance of research in this field.
We are convinced that by betting on science and scientific innovation, Alzheimer’s will one day be history. Only by improving the knowledge we currently have about the disease will we find solutions that allow us to diagnose it early, which will help us not only to prevent it, but also to achieve a better quality of life for people affected and their families and caregivers.