Four former surgeons general who served under presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are warning that dementia is the nation’s top public health crisis. In a guest commentary for the Orlando Sentinel, the former public health officials call dementia — the loss of cognitive ability due to Alzheimer’s and other diseases — is a national crisis: “Its scale is unprecedented, and its numbers, already tragic, are growing rapidly.”
The number of people over age 65 living with dementia doubles every five years, they say, and with Baby Boomers aging, 14 million people in the U.S. will be living with dementia by 2050. “The convergence of an aging population and increased dementias without an appropriate infrastructure of care is potentially catastrophic,” the surgeons general write.
They argue that dementia “garners neither the urgency nor the resources it deserves” and that the public should be as concerned and informed about brain health as it is about heart health, breast cancer and the dangers of smoking. “We have an obligation to mobilize every corner of the legislative, public policy, and health communities to inform and educate the public” about the latest science on dementia, they say.
Among their recommendations: making annual cognitive assessments part of routine check-ups.