Aug 2, 2023 - Health

Georgia's Alzheimer's hot spots

Data: Dhana, et al., 2023, "Prevalence of Alzheimer's disease dementia in the 50 U.S. states and 3,142 counties"; Map: Axios Visuals

An estimated 12% of Georgians ages 65 and older have Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.

Why it matters: It's critical for public health officials, policymakers and others to have a clear look at the number of Alzheimer's cases in a given area, authors of the study say.

  • Caring for those with the disease cost an estimated $321 billion nationwide last year, much of which came via Medicare and Medicaid.

Details: The study, published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, estimated the rates of disease among people ages 65 and older in a given area based on demographic risk factors, including age, sex and race/ethnicity.

Zoom in: In metro Atlanta, DeKalb County had the highest number of seniors with Alzheimer's at 14.4%, followed by Fulton (14.1%) Clayton (13.4%), Rockdale (12.9%) and Henry (12%).

  • The highest rates in the state, however, are in a southwest Georgia cluster between Calhoun (17%), Randolph and Stewart (16.6%) counties.

Flashback: In 2013, Georgia legislators created the Alzheimer's and Related Dementias State Plan Task Force to improve awareness, training and research into dementia.

  • The group released a set of recommendations in 2020 to address all aspects of dementia in Georgia, including researching its prevalence, workforce needs and training and resources for caretakers.

The big picture: Researchers found the eastern and southeastern U.S. have the country's highest rates of Alzheimer's disease, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick reports.

  • Maryland (12.9%), New York (12.7%) and Mississippi (12.5%) topped the list of states ranked by estimated number of Alzheimer's cases.

What they're saying: "These estimates could help public health officials to understand the burden of disease (e.g., demand for caregiver counseling and institutional care) at the county and state levels and develop adequate strategies for identifying and caring for people with [Alzheimer's]," the authors write.

Yes, but: The researchers caution their approach is incomplete, as demographic-based risk factors can only show part of the picture.

  • Other risk factors — including cardiovascular health and lifestyle — also play a role, but "such data are unavailable at the county level, and we cannot incorporate them into our estimates," they write.

What we're watching: A study led by Jalayne Arias, an associate professor at Georgia State University School of Public Health, is working to help fix barriers to sharing data that may speed up research on Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.


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