The biggest Tsunami facing our healthcare system and our society is diseases of the brain.

Whether it is depression, anxiety disorder, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s or other types of dementias, we as a society are already feeling the burden of these diseases socially and financially.

Today, just in United States, nearly 6 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and every 67 seconds another person will be diagnosed with the condition.

In the last ten years, while every other chronic disease has been in decline, prevalence of Alzheimer’s has increased more than 80%.

Alzheimer’s is also the most expensive disease at $240 billion direct cost and more the $230 billion indirect cost. Compare this to the second most expensive disease, heart disease, at $150 billion, and all cancers combined at $57 billion.

What is most alarming is that it is projected that by the year 2040, this cost will climb to more than three trillion dollars in United States, and will single-handedly overwhelm our healthcare system.

Today we know that Alzheimer’s disease and many other cognitive diseases, if treated early, through proper medical treatment as well as lifestyle management, can be avoided by a significant proportion of the population that would otherwise succumb to it.

The current approach to these diseases is extremely narrow and myopic and is the reason why we have no real treatments.

Our approach to this problem is this: the way to treat the most complicated organ in the body is not through adjusting one little molecule at one point in time, but through a more complex and protracted method of eliminating risk and enhancing resilience.

Join us to build healthy brains in your community and throughout the world.

One of the primary reasons for this site is education, and education begins with understanding the problem. We’ve listed some statistics here to help you understand what the problem is, how significant it is, and how it is growing.


Who gets brain disease?

  • Nearly (50 percent) of people aged 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease.1
  • More women have Alzheimer’s than men; approximately two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women. This is usually attributed to the fact that women live longer than men, Alzheimer’s is an age-related disease, and therefore women have a higher chance of living long enough to develop it.1 
  • Alzheimer’s is more prevalent in African-American and Hispanic/Latino populations than it is among white people.2,3 
  • Factors such as smoking4-6, obesity7-13, diabetes6,14-18, high cholesterol9,19, and high blood pressure9,12,20-22, increase a person’s chance of developing dementia or other forms of brain disease. 
  • The number of new cases of Alzheimer’s each year is expected to double by 2050.23
  • General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1 percent of the US population. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with GAD as men.24 
  • Panic disorder affects 6 million adults, or 3 percent of the population. Women experience panic disorder at twice the rate of men. PD often co-occurs with GAD.24 
  • SAD affects 15 million adults, or 6.8% of the U.S. population. SAD is equally common among men and women and typically begins around age 13. According to a 2007 ADAA survey, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.24
  • Specific phobias affect 19 million adults, or 8.7% of the U.S. population. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. Symptoms typically begin in childhood; the average age-of-onset is 7 years old.24 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are closely related to anxiety disorders, which some may experience at the same time, along with depression.24 
  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3. MDD affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5 years old. MDD is more prevalent in women than in men.24 
  • Anxiety is as common among older adults as among the young.24 

How big is the problem, and what does it look like?

  • Approximately 5.2 million people in America have Alzheimer’s disease. This exact number is difficult to nail down because approximately half of all patients suffering with Alzheimer’s don’t have a formal diagnosis from a doctor.1 
  • The Alzheimer’s Association estimated in 2014 that by 2025 every state and region within the United States would see double-digit increases in the number of patients with Alzheimer’s.26
  • The number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to reach 7.1 million in 5 years; this is a 40 percent increase from the 5 million affected in 2014.1
  • Due to advances in medicine, medical technology, and social and environmental conditions, the number of people living into their 80s and 90s is increasing. By 2030 the section of the US population aged 65 and older is expected to increase to 20 percent of the population.27
  • The number of people who have Alzheimer’s and are older than 65 is expected to triple, with estimates ranging from 14 to 16 million by 2050.1
  • One-third of all seniors who die in a given year have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.28
  • Someone in the US has a stroke about once every 40 seconds.34
  • Stroke accounts for 1 of every 20 deaths in the US. 34
  • Stroke kills someone in the US about every 4 minutes. 34
  • When considered separately from other cardiovascular diseases, stroke is the fifth-leading cause of mortality in America, killing nearly 133,000 people a year. 34
  • Stroke was the second-leading global cause of death behind heart disease in 2013, accounting for 11.8 percent of total deaths worldwide. 34
  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. 24
  • More than 1 out of 20 Americans 12 years of age and older reported current depression in 2005–2006.35
  • Depression is experienced as anxiety 65 percent of the time.25

How does this affect families and communities?

  • Once a patient develops dementia, the condition slowly worsens over time and the person becomes more and more dependent upon the support of others for even basic care needs. This “disease burden” is measured by something called the “disability-adjusted life-years,” or DALYs, which is the number of years lost because of the disease. 29
  • Based on DALYs, Alzheimer’s rose from 25th on the list of the most burdensome diseases in America in 1990 to 12th in 2010; no other disease advanced that much.29
  • If you look solely at the number of years of life lost, Alzheimer’s disease rose from 32nd to 9th in the same time period listed above. This was the largest increase for any disease.29
  • Families, relatives, and friends provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to patients with Alzheimer’s.30 This is valued at more than $220 billion, which is equal to approximately half the net value of Walmart sales31 and nearly eight times the total revenue of McDonalds in 2012.32
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.33
  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.33
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events24. 
  • Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse24. 

Alzheimer’s is a deadly disease. It is currently listed as the sixth-leading cause of death in the US, and the fifth-leading cause of death in those 65 and older. These facts, however, probably don’t give us an accurate understanding of how deadly this disease is. 

It’s difficult to truly understand the impact of Alzheimer’s impact due to the way deaths are recorded. National statistics are normally pulled from numbers published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC considers a person to have died from Alzheimer’s if that disease is listed as the underlying cause of death; this is defined by the World Health Organization as “the disease or injury which

initiated the train of events leading directly to death.”

Alzheimer’s often leads to multiple complications, such as immobility, swallowing disorders, and malnutrition. These can lead to death, and since they are acute conditions they are likely to be the cause of death listed on the death certificate, even though the underlying reason is Alzheimer’s. One example is pneumonia, a preventable and treatable condition which has been found in several studies to be the leading cause of death among elderly people with severe dementia. 

While other conditions, such as cancer and heart disease, are being addressed, the number of cases of various brain diseases are growing. For example, between 2000 and 2010, deaths attributed to heart disease (currently identified as the number one cause of death) decreased by 16 percent. During that same span of time, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s increased by 68 percent.1

Works Cited

  1. Hebert LE, Weuve J, Scherr PA, Evans DA. Alzheimer disease in the United States (2010-2050) estimated using the 2010 Census. Neurology 2013;80(19):1778–83.
  2. Dilworth-Anderson P, Hendrie HC, Manly JJ, Khachaturian AS, Fazio S. Diagnosis and assessment of Alzheimer’s disease in diverse populations. Alzheimers Dement 2008;4(4):305–9.
  3. Manly J, Mayeux R. Ethnic differences in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In: Anderson N, Bulatao R, Cohen B, eds. Critical perspectives on racial and ethnic differentials in health in late life. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2004:p. 95–141.
  4. Anstey KJ, von Sanden C, Salim A, O’Kearney R. Smoking as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Epidemiol 2007;166(4):367–78.
  5. Rusanen M, Kivipelto M, Quesenberry CP, Zhou J, Whitmer RA. Heavy smoking in midlife and long-term risk of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia. Arch Intern Med 2010;171(4):333–9.
  6. Pendlebury ST, Rothwell PM. Prevalence, incidence, and factors associated with pre-stroke and post-stroke dementia: Asystematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Neurol 2009;8(11):1006–18.
  7. Whitmer RA, Gustafson DR, Barrett-Connor E, Haan MN, Gunderson EP, Yaffe K. Central obesity and increased risk of dementia more than three decades later. Neurology 2008;71:1057–64.
  8. Raji CA, Ho AJ, Parikshak NN, Becker JT, Lopez OL, Kuller LH, et al. Brain structure and obesity. Hum Brain Mapp2010;31(3):353–64.
  9. Kivipelto M, Ngandu T, Fratiglioni L, Viitanen M, Kåreholt I, Winblad B, et al. Obesity and vascular risk factors at midlife and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol 2005;62:1556–60.
  10. Xu WL, Atti AR, Gatz M, Pedersen NL, Johansson B, Fratiglioni L. Midlife overweight and obesity increase late-life dementia risk: A population-based twin study. Neurology 2011; 3;76(18):1568–74.
  11. Fitzpatrick AL, Kuller LH, Lopez OL, Diehr P, O’Meara ES, Longstreth WT, et al. Midlife and late-life obesity and the risk of dementia: Cardiovascular Health Study. Arch Neurol 2009;66(3):336–42.
  12. Rönnemaa E, Zethelius B, Lannfelt L, Kilander L. Vascular risk factors and dementia: 40-year follow-up of a population-based cohort. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2011;31(6):460–6.
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  16. Reitz C, Brayne C, Mayeux R. Epidemiology of Alzheimer disease. Nat Rev Neurol 2011;7(3):137–52.
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  18. Cheng D, Noble J, Tang MX, Schupf N, Mayeux R, Luchsinger JA. Type 2 diabetes and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2011;31(6):424–30.
  19. Solomon A, Kivipelto M, Wolozin B, Zhou, J, Whitmer, RA. Midlife serum cholesterol and increased risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia three decades later. Dement and Geriatr Disord 2009;28:75–80.
  20. Launer LJ, Ross GW, Petrovitch H, Masaki K, Foley D, White LR, et al. Midlife blood pressure and dementia: The Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. Neurobiol Aging 2000;21(1):49–55.
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  26. State-by-state prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease: These state by state prevalence numbers are based on an unpublished analysis of incidence data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP), projected to each state’s population, with adjustments for state-specific age, gender, years of education, race and mortality provided to the Alzheimer’s Association in 2013 by a team led by Liesi Hebert, Sc.D., from Rush University Institute on Healthy Aging.
  27. Vincent GK, Velkof VA. The Next Four Decades: The Older Population in the United States: 2010 to 2050. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau; 2010.
  28. Unpublished tabulations based on data from the National 20% Sample Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries for 2009. Prepared under contract by Julie Bynum, M.D., M.P.H., Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Care, Dartmouth Medical School, November 2011.
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  35. Pratt LA, Brody DJ. Depression in the United States household population, 2005–2006. NCHS Data Brief. 2008(7):1–8.

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