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Alzheimer's disease on the rise among under 60s

By Wang Xiaoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-22 08:55
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The number of people under 60 with Alzheimer's in China has been growing fast, and experts have called for strengthening early prevention efforts and enhancing the development of novel drugs.

Those aged 60 to 79 account for about 62 percent of people newly diagnosed with the memory-robbing disease, but the proportion of new cases in the under 60s take up 21 percent, much higher than the global average of around 5 to 10 percent, according to a report released by the Alzheimer's disease branch of the Chinese Aging Well Association on Wednesday.

The finding suggests that Alzheimer's is increasingly affecting younger people of working age in China, highlighting the need to step up prevention, as well as early screening and diagnosis of the disease across the whole of society.

Sun Yongan, a neurologist from Peking University First Hospital, said that despite growing awareness of the disease, more efforts are needed to spread education on early interventions to grab the golden window of opportunity to initiate treatment.

"We have called for carrying out screening, diagnosis and therapies as early as possible to win more time to slow down and contain the progression of the disease," he said. "Meanwhile, it is important to introduce novel treatments to address a lack of precise and effective clinical therapies targeting the disease."

China has about 15.1 million dementia patients aged 60 and above, including 9.83 million with Alzheimer's.

Creating effective drugs for the disease has been a global challenge. In China, five medications have been approved for treating the disease, but they only work to contain symptoms in the short term, and are unable to target the pathogenic mechanism to slow the disease's progression.

The report said nearly 49 percent of patients report negative treatment outcomes, and 37 percent feel treatment fees are too costly.

Wang Gang, a neurologist from Ruijin Hospital, said that the majority of patients and their family members proactively inquire about the use of innovative drugs.

"How to access effective medications has been their key concern," he said.

On Sunday, a separate report released by the China Association for Alzheimer's pointed out that the incidence rate of dementia, including Alzheimer's, has been rising gradually over the past decades. The incidence rate for men and women above 60 is around 2.4 and 4.2 percent respectively.

The report suggested prioritizing prevention and establishing a comprehensive system to monitor cases and deaths of Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases.

It also suggested setting up early prevention demonstration programs in cities with deeply aged populations.

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