Jul 31, 2023 - Health

Alzheimer's prevalence in California

Estimated share of older adults in California with Alzheimer's disease
Data: Dhana et al., 2023, "Prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia in the 50 U.S. States and 3,142 Counties"; Map: Axios Visuals

California has one of the highest rates of Alzheimer's disease in the country, 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, the authors say — in part because caring for those with the disease cost an estimated $321 billion nationwide last year, much of which came via Medicare and Medicaid.

What's happening: An estimated 12% of adults 65 or older in California have Alzheimer's disease, according to data published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.

  • Maryland (12.9%), New York (12.7%) and Mississippi (12.5%) top the list of U.S. states ranked by the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease. California is seventh at 12%.
  • In San Francisco, the prevalence is 12.4%.

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 that their approach is incomplete, as demographic-based risk factors can tell only 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 to watch: The University of California, San Francisco is working to improve health equity in Alzheimer's care for people of Asian ancestry thanks to $6.4 million in funding from the National Institute on Aging.

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