By Sandy K. Johnson

Some fast facts about dementia:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, afflicting some 5 million Americans.
  • By 2040, there will be more Americans over 65 than under 5 years old.
  • The economic impact of dementia is $200 billion a year, more than cancer and heart disease combined.

No wonder Congress fast-tracked an unprecedented increase in federal spending on dementia, from $630 million in fiscal 2015 to $2 billion in fiscal 2018.

“It was the result of advocates making the argument that this was a significant national problem and we need to address it,” said Dr. Marie Bernard, deputy director of the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The bump in funding allowed NIA to produce a national plan to address Alzheimer’s disease. There are some 140 clinical trials on intervention and prevention of dementia currently under way.

Unfortunately, researchers still haven’t unlocked the mystery of cognitive decline into impairment and then dementia.

Research, however, is suggesting that lifestyle modifications can make a difference – with exercise and weight control being among the most important.