Dementia cases will rise to 132 million in 2050

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Aug 25, 2015 06:19 AM EDT

CRANSTON, RI - DECEMBER 10: (Editorial Use Only) Nathan Brown (his real name has been changed at the request of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, both to protect him and the identity of people and victims associated with his crime), a prisoner at Rhode Island's John J. Moran Medium Security Prison, plays chess against another inmate on December 10, 2013 in Cranston, Rhode Island. Brown is 75 years old and is serving 55 consecutive years for first degree sexual assault; he arrived in prison in 1992. Brown denies he committed the crime for which he was convicted and refuses to go through a sexual rehabilitation program necessary to be eligible for parole. However, he does admit to serving time in jail prior to his current conviction for assault and weapons possessions. Brown is a trained carpenter, enjoys working in the prison library and also works in the prison's laundry facility. He is also blind in one eye, suffers from arthritis, has had numerous knee surgeries and is currently suffering from an ear infection. Approximately 50 of the prison's 1020 inmates are 65 or older. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country, with the number of inmates increasing 42 percent between 1995 and 2010, according to Human Rights Watch, and the number of prisoners 55-and-older skyrocketing by 282 percent. The increases are blamed on the 'tough on crime' and the 'war on drugs' policies enacted in the 1970s through the 1990s, with mandatory-minimum sentencing, three-strike laws and life-without-parole legislation becoming popular. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images) (Photo : Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

As the world continues to age, more and more people are at risk for dementia, a range of degenerative diseases of the brain. Among the many symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills, the most popular and common is Alzheimer's disease, which is estimated to affect 5.3 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Furthermore, every 67 seconds, a person in the U.S. develops the disease, and one out of three seniors die with Alzheimer's or another type of dementia.

Yahoo News reports that this number may go up in the coming years. According to the World Alzheimer Report 2015 produced by Alzheimer's Disease International, the number of people who have dementia worldwide will grow from 47 million today to 132 million in the year 2050. Additionally, medical costs will rise, as it has been in the last five years, to $818 billion this year, 60 percent of which went to medical and institutional care.

Pam Peeke, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and a fellow of the American College of Physicians, wrote in the Huffington Post: "High-quality sleep is essential to maintaining a clean house in your brain. A good night's sleep helps to prevent the buildup of toxic proteins that will increase your risk of dementia."

Professor Dr. Kevin King, of Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles told The Mirror: "We currently do not have effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, so the focus is on prevention."

Prevention is indeed better than cure, and The Independent recommends brisk walking for 30 to 40 minutes thrice a week, as a study suggested that this exercise helps the regrowth of brain structures linked to cognitive decline.

The Herald Journal reports that according to Harvard Health Publications, "Research shows...animals who exercise regularly increase the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain that is responsible for thought. Exercise also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells (synapses). This results in brains that are more efficient, plastic, and adaptive."

Additionally, smokers are at higher risk for dementia, so it's better to quit smoking as early as possible. The Alzheimer's Association also reports that "social engagement is associated with reduced rates of disability and mortality, and may also reduce risk for depression."

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