Utah has higher Alzheimer's rates than almost anywhere else in the country

The Alzheimer's Association released new data, Wednesday, and it highlights a concerning trend in Utah.  
 
Experts say Alzheimer's rates could more than triple by year 2050.  
 
Right now, 30,000 people in the Beehive State have the disease.  Sixty-eight year-old Diane Hinckley is one of those people.  She sits on her couch -- at a safe distance from her husband Harold -- day after day.  
 
"She sits here, and we watch TV.  I mean, she doesn't watch it, it just distracts her I think... and I putter, and then at 8:30 she goes to bed," Harold said during an interview in their Cottonwood Heights home.
 
The parents of six had a lovely life together for 40 years before Diane's Alzheimer's Disease diagnosis in 2008. Now, the once vibrant, sharp lady is in a childlike state that requires 24-hour care. 
 
"She threatens my life and swears and yells.  She's become very mean..." Harold said.  "She has no idea who I am, she has no idea who her children are.  I'm just a mean guy around the house that makes her do stuff.  That's the way she looks at me," he explained. 
 
Unfortunately, new data shows more and more Utahns are finding themselves in circumstances similar to the Hinckleys' situation.  The Alzheimer's Association just released the latest facts and figures.  The data shows in Utah 30,000 people now have the disease, and rates are only climbing. 
 
"The statistics show that over the next decade, here in the State of Utah, we're going to see about a 40 percent increase in the numbers of people with this disease, and those are based upon the number of baby boomers that are turning age 65," said Ronnie Daniel, Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Association Utah Chapter. 
 
Daniel says old age is the number one risk factor for Alzheimer's.  Because people tend to live longer in Utah, rates are significantly higher than other places.  
 
While there is no cure for the disease, researchers have found clues to prevention.
 
"We know that there's a significant connection between heart health and brain health, so if you are susceptible to heart disease, cardiovascular disease, the risk is twice as high for getting Alzheimer's Disease or another type of dementia," Daniel explained. 
 
Harold says Diane is pretty healthy aside from her diminished mind. 
 
"I guess that's the thing I miss most is not having an adult to talk to, you know?" he said.
 
The disease eventually shuts down people's organs, and the devoted husband says he knows that but wants to care for his sweetheart of 48 years until he no longer can. 
 
"I would have it no other way.  That's what love entails.  That's what a commitment entails," he said.
 
Nationally, more than five million people now have the disease.  Statistics show one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. 
 

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