Asia Experiencing Alzheimer’s Epidemic

Statistics show that the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s disease in China has been rising gradually in recent years and the number of Alzheimer’s disease patients has now reached five million and is increasing at a rate of 300,000 every year.

It was predicted in 2006 that China would have 248 million elderly people by 2020, accounting for 17.2% of the total population (Chow, 2006).

Due to their adverseness and heavy burdens as mentioned above, it is of great importance to understand the size and distribution of AD and PD for clinicians and policy makers guiding health and care services.

Currently, 5.6 percent of Chinese people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, which means that there is one Alzheimer’s patient among every 20 senior citizens. Among them, only 27 percent regularly go to the hospital for medical treatment. There is no difference in the prevalence rates of AD between rural and urban areas in China.

People living in northwestern China are more likely to develop AD, which is about 2.5 times higher than the lowest South China region. In contrast, the highest region of PD prevalence is South China, about 8.6 times higher than its lowest region, Southwest China.

The number of women with Alzheimer’s disease is twice to three times that of men.

Experts say that there are still few effective medical treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and correct diagnosis and intervention treatments are critical to prevent the disease from worsening. According to experts’ suggestions, adult children should spend more time with their parents and take them to the hospital if they suspect the parents have Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease place an increasing burden on the health care services in China. With an aging demography and a lack of effectiveness in prevention, detection, and treatment of the diseases, the burden of neurodegenerative disease will get worse. Fortunately, traditional Chinese medicines offer promise in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Hopefully, the nation will become a leader in the discovery of effective prevention and treatments for both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, which exhibit closely related pathology.

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Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease.