LA County among the highest for rates of seniors living with Alzheimer's in CA

New research reveals the disease affects 12% of California residents over 65, the 7th highest rate among states in the country.

Denise Dador Image
Friday, July 21, 2023
LA County among the highest for rates of seniors with Alzheimer's
New research reveals the disease affects 12% of California residents over 65, the seventh highest rate among states in the country.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- On the heels of a new federally-approved drug for Alzheimer's disease, scientists expect there could soon be another, and a new non-invasive way to screen for the disease looks promising.

The developments are eye-opening, especially for those living in Los Angeles County. Though L.A. is known for its traffic and weather, it now has a new distinction.

"Los Angeles County has the greatest number of people with Alzheimer's disease among all the counties in the United States," said Dr. Zaldy Tan, the medical director of the Jona Goldrich Center for Alzheimer's and Memory Disorders at Cedars-Sinai.

Tan attended the Alzheimer's Association's scientific meeting in Amsterdam where new research reveals California has the seventh highest rate in the country, affecting 12% of state residents over 65.

Within California, Imperial County has the highest rate at 15%. L.A. County is second at 13.2%, but because of its large population, nearly 200,000 people are living with Alzheimer's at 65 and older.

However, Tan said not all of it can be attributed to age.

"Pollution has been related to the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and we know that sometimes our air quality is not the best," he said. "It's worth mentioning that Angelenos don't walk, or perhaps exercise as much as other people."

Also presented at the meeting were clinical trials that show Eli Lilly's Donanemab can slow Alzheimer's progression by 60% for those mildly impaired.

Tan said Donanemab works similarly to Lecanemab, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration two weeks ago.

"It seemed to be effective in not just clearing amyloid, but also in reducing the rate of progression of the disease in terms of memory, cognitive outcomes, as well as the functional decline," he said.

Someday, screening could be as simple as a finger prick test. Studies show the simple test can accurately detect proteins in the blood that cause Alzheimer's.

"It seemed to be more convenient and potentially less costly to do these tests," Tan said.

More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, that number is projected to reach 13 million.

Tan said we can expect to see more and more new treatments, but prevention needs to be prioritized.

"It's really about a healthy lifestyle and getting good sleep, lowering stress, preventing head trauma and eating a healthy diet," Tan said.

Grace Manthey contributed to this report.