Becerra: Federal Government to Make Alzheimer’s Prevention a National Priority
HHS Secretary, and Alzheimer’s Caretaker, Xavier Becerra Announces Addition to National Alzheimer’s Plan
Washington, D.C. (December 26, 2021) – UsAgainstAlzheimer’s applauded Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who announced on Sunday plans to unveil a new national goal: to reduce the risks of Americans getting Alzheimer’s disease. The administration is expected to formally announce the goal on Monday.
The new goal recognizes the latest science that reducing risk factors such as hypertension, physical inactivity, depression may delay the onset or slow progression of ADRD and its symptoms.
“It wasn’t so long ago that people were saying there’s nothing we can do to prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias. UsAgainstAlzheimer’s never believed that, which is why we worked incredibly hard with the administration and convened nearly 200 other organizations, to make this new goal a reality,” said George Vradenburg, chair and co-founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “I sincerely appreciate Secretary Becerra sharing his deeply personal story and turning his experience into action in the quest to end Alzheimer’s.”
Needed Step to Confront a Growing Public Health Crisis
Alzheimer’s disease is a public health crisis; more than 6 million Americans are living with the disease, with nearly 14 million people expected to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by 2050.
Women and communities of color bear a disproportionate burden with women making up 2/3 of Alzheimer’s cases. By 2030, nearly 40 percent of all Americans living with Alzheimer's will be Black or Latino.
Alzheimer’s not only takes a toll on patients and their families, it has a significant economic impact. Without early intervention and treatment, care costs are projected to exceed $20 trillion over the next 30 years.
“It is imperative that people living with the disease, caregivers, doctors, and policymakers work together to stop this accelerating trend in its track, and this new priority on prevention and risk reduction is a great start,” Vradenburg said.
The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) Advisory Council has recommended that the new goal seek a 15 percent reduction by 2030 in prevalence of 10 key risk factors. These risk factors include depression, diabetes, hearing loss, mid-life hypertension, physical inactivity, poor diet quality and obesity, poor sleep quality and sleep disorders, tobacco use, traumatic brain injury, and unhealthy alcohol use.
An aggressive 15 percent reduction per decade in the prevalence of these risk factors could result in up to 1.2 million fewer people with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2050.
How a New Prevention Goal Came to Be
Secretary Becerra’s addition of the new goal to the National Alzheimer’s plan is the latest to reflect a growing body of evidence that shows that dementia is not simply a normal part of aging, and that actions can be taken to slow, delay, or possibly even prevent cognitive decline.
In July, 2020, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and a broad range of organizations and top leaders issued a call for a national prevention goal for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. That coalition has now increased to nearly 200 groups and leaders who support the new national goal. Later that month, the Lancet Commission released research showing that managing a dozen risk factors could prevent or delay around 40 percent of worldwide dementia cases.
In an important step, the NAPA Advisory Council in the summer of 2020 created a new risk reduction subcommittee, which was charged with developing a national goal to prevent or delay onset of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. This risk reduction subcommittee has been led jointly by Lisa McGuire of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kelly O’Brien of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and Matthew Baumgart of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Five months ago, the Advisory Council voted to recommend addition of the new risk reduction goal to the national plan, which set in motion the update announced today by Secretary Becerra.
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s exists to conquer Alzheimer’s disease. We take on the toughest problems; bring all of “Us” together to break down barriers; advocate for research that will speed treatments to market; and drive changes that matter most to people living with the disease. We will not rest until brain-span equals lifespan - for everyone.