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Alzheimer's declared greatest threat to U.S. health

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

After analyzing thousands of sources of data, researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle have declared that Alzheimer's disease - the insidious condition that robs the elderly of their memory and motor skills, is the biggest threat to health in the United States. They note, however, that the majority of Americans will most likely die from poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - AIDS and alcohol are the biggest health threats among Russians, malnutrition threatens children in Africa and Afghanistan and violence is taking the lives of many young men across much of Latin America.

The Seattle researchers looked at thousands of sources of data, comparing various causes of death and diseases across 187 countries.

The Alzheimer's Association has long been warning that the U.S. will have to cope with a tidal wave of Alzheimer's disease as the population ages. A report last month projected that the number of patients with this untreatable form of dementia will triple in the next 40 years, to 13.8 million in 2050.

Alzheimer's is already up 392 percent as a cause of premature death, as measured by years of life lost, according to the University of Washington team. As an overall cause of death, which is how many people die of Alzheimer's instead of something else - Alzheimer's is up by more than 500 percent.

"Overall, the three risk factors that account for the most disease burden in the United States are dietary risks, tobacco smoking, and high body-mass index," reads the report, called the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors 2010.

Heart disease, lung and throat cancer and stroke cost Americans the most years of life in 2010, the study, led by the university's Christopher Murray, found. The single biggest risk factor in the U.S. is diet.

The good news? "Of the 25 most important causes of burden, as measured by disability-adjusted life years, interpersonal violence showed the largest decrease, falling by 26 percent from 1990 to 2010," the report finds

AIDS infections also have appeared to have peaked globally and people are living longer and healthier lives.

"While HIV/AIDS has exacted a devastating toll on many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, increasing by 328 percent in terms of healthy years lost from 1990 to 2010, the epidemic appears to have peaked in 2004," the report says.

"This success is largely attributable to the massive scale-up in antiretroviral therapy over the past decade," the report reads.

Residents of Britain and Canada both also suffer most from overeating and smoking. In Britain, the single biggest health risk to children is second-hand smoke.

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