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October 7, 2005
How We Are Going to Die
This past Sunday, David Brooks in the New York Times explains how we are going to die:
"Twenty percent of us, according to a Rand Corporation study, are going to get cancer or another rapidly debilitating condition and we'll be dead within a year of getting the disease. Another 20 percent of us are going to suffer from some cardiac or respiratory failure. We'll suffer years of worsening symptoms, a few
life-threatening episodes, and then eventually die.
But 40 percent of us will suffer from some form of dementia (most frequently Alzheimer's disease or a disabling stroke). Our gradual, unrelenting path toward death will take 8 or 10 or even 20 years, during which we will cease to become the person we were. We will linger on, in some new state, depending on the care of others.
As the population ages, more people will live in this final category. Between now and 2050, the percentage of the population above age 85 is expected to quadruple, and the number of people with Alzheimer's
disease is expected to quadruple, too."
Bottom line: Neurological diseases and psychiatric illnesses represent the greatest threat to our lifestyles and economy. Beyond the untold human suffering, the economic burden of brain-related illness is already greater than $1 Trllion. What will it be in 2050?
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