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August 24, 2020

DES MOINES, IA – Early-onset dementia and Alzheimer's disease rates in South Dakota are lower than the national average, according to a new Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Health of America Report: Early-Onset Dementia and Alzheimer's Rates Grow for Younger Americans External Site. The report shows the combined diagnosis rates per 10,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield commercially insured members (for adults ages 30 to 64) is 12.6 6 with the average age of a person living with either form of dementia is 49. South Dakota's diagnosis rate per 10,000 members ranges between 5.6–7.1.

"Even though early-onset dementia and Alzheimer's diagnoses rates in South Dakota are trending lower than the national average, the number of young adults being diagnosed is on the rise," said Laura Jackson, Wellmark's chief health officer. "This indicates a need to focus on lifestyle habits that will keep your body and brain healthy throughout your lifetime to help reduce and prevent cognitive decline."

Additional findings from the study include:

  • Early-onset dementia or Alzheimer's disease increased 200 percent from 2013 to 2017.
  • The number diagnosed with these conditions increased 373 percent among 30- to 44-year-olds, 311 percent among 45- to 54-year-olds and 143 percent among 55- to 64-year-olds from 2013 to 2017.
  • These conditions are more common in women, who make up 58 percent of those diagnosed.

Protecting your brain

When it comes to prevention, the Alzheimer's Association points to growing evidence which indicates people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits. Whenever possible, combine habits which boost your brain and physical health, such as exercising, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. Evidence has also shown that staying socially engaged by pursuing social activities that are meaningful to you, taking care of your mental health and challenging your mind by completing jigsaw puzzles and playing games that make you think strategically, may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.

Economic consequences

An increase in Alzheimer's diagnoses among younger generations can also lead to even greater economic consequences and mental stress for those who provide them care. The Alzheimer's Association also reports the added caregiving responsibilities are felt particularly by women who make up 63 percent of this caregiving subset.

According to the South Dakota chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, there are 39,000 caregivers who have logged more than 44 million hours of unpaid care, totaling more than $575 million. The additional stress and time commitment these caregivers incur can also lead to depression, social isolation and financial stress.

The report is based on data from BCBS Axis, a database of medical claims from more than 48 million commercially insured members of Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) companies, from 2013 to 2017. This is the 29th study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series. For more information, visit External Site.

Learn more tips to improve your brain health at Opens in new window.