General Interest

The Disease I Most Fear As I Age Is…..

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The bi-monthly poll results are in – and the answer to this question is, hands down, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease). An electrifying 61% made this selection, out of a group of ailments that also included arthritis, cancer, diabetes and, of course, “other.” While I’m not surprised by the answer, I am surprised by the margin. Only 2% most fear arthritis, 4% most fear diabetes, 5% “other,” and 28% cancer. So dementia truly trounced the “competition.”

With dementia such a clear winner, I decided to see to what level we are funding research and activities to bring about a cure. The National Institutes of Health oversee and coordinate the President’s budget request to fund research not only for dementia, but other ailments as well. This is what I’ve learned. (NIH will fund research on approximately 218 disease areas in 2011. The broader category of “dementia” was not included in the list – but Alzheimer’s disease, a subcategory of dementia, is included.) As a nation, we will spend $480M in researching this disease in 2011. That amount seems huge, so I went on to see what amounts will be spent on the other disease choices from the AFL Poll. Here are the results for 2011: arthritis, $259M; cancer, $6,036M; and diabetes, $1,078M. So, while dementia, your greatest fear, will be receiving more research money than arthritis (which only garnered 2% of our concerns), �funding for Alzheimer’s will be less than half of the dollars to be spent on diabetes. And cancer research will receive more than 12 times the amount of resources that Alzheimer’s disease will receive. (Go here for detail budget figures by disease.)

Now, I know that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia strike those who are older – while cancer and diabetes can strike both the young AND the old. Yet, we are an ENORMOUS group of people, with 10,000 of us turning 50 every day. We truly are a generational tsunami. And our fear, our very real fear of this debilitating, mind-robbing illness needs to be addressed with positive steps. Yes,�even though we’ll spend almost a half billion in research – that expenditure is woefully short of where it needs to be. Wake up, politicians and budget crafters. Wake up, America. We’re coming – and we’re bringing a tidal wave of a disease along with us. Let’s not make this the disease equivalent of Hurricane Katrina. We can and must man the levies now!

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