Other Voices

We can win against Alzheimer’s disease

A brain slice of a 70-year-old brain with Alzheimer's disease, left, and a normal 70-year-old brain at right.
A brain slice of a 70-year-old brain with Alzheimer's disease, left, and a normal 70-year-old brain at right. NYT

Sunday evening, more than 150 million people will tune in to watch at least part of Super Bowl XLIX, which will cost almost $100 million to produce.

Consumers will spend more than $5 billion on Super Bowl-related items.

Just think of the possibilities if we spent as much on Alzheimer’s disease research as we do on football.

Last year, the federal government allocated $591 million for Alzheimer’s research. To put this into perspective, we will spend almost 10 times the annual research budget for Alzheimer’s disease in a single weekend for a football game.

This is a drop in the bucket compared to what it costs our nation to care for 5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease — $214 billion a year.

By 2050, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will more than triple to 16 million people and the costs will increase 10-fold to exceed $1.2 trillion in today’s dollars.

A study published in the April 2013 New England Journal of Medicine confirms that Alzheimer’s is the nation’s costliest disease.

And that doesn’t take into account the more than 16 million family members and friends that currently care for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2013 Americans provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.

Caregiving also causes high emotional stress and negatively affects health, employment and financial security.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in America and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

Scientists believe that preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025 — the primary goal of the federal government’s National Alzheimer’s Plan — will require a commitment of at least $2 billion a year.

Cancer research receives $5.4 billion, research into cardiovascular disease receives more than $2 billion, and HIV/AIDS research receives in excess of $3 billion a year.

The fruits of such investments are now being realized, with death rates associated with these diseases starting to decline.

Not for Alzheimer’s disease, however. Its death rate is growing at an alarming rate of 68 percent.

It’s time to root for the researchers. To deck ourselves out in purple, the official color of the Alzheimer’s Association, the organization leading the worldwide fight against this disease.

Let’s cheer the scientists on as they search for the cause, the treatment and the cure for this heartbreaking, terminal malady.

Sit back and enjoy the game. But, come Monday, advocate for what is important.

Talk to people about what needs to happen to put an end to Alzheimer’s disease once and for all.

Educate your legislators about the significant increases in Alzheimer’s funding that must happen to finally stop the devastation caused by this dreadful disease.

Meharvan Singh is board president for the Alzheimer's Association-North Central Texas Chapter.