An aging population is going to cost the U.S. more— with a lot of that cost going to pay for the treatment and careof neurological diseases. And the country already forks over $800billion a year for such conditions as Alzheimer’s, multiplesclerosis, migraines, epilepsy and spinal cord injury.

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A Huffington Post report says in order to understand how vastthat number is, it’s more than $100 billion higher than the amountthe U.S. spends on its entire military budget.

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A study published in the journal Annals of Neurologysays that $800 billion figure includes the total cost of the ninemost common neurological diseases, but researchers also note thatthe total costs related to the more than 1,000 known diseases ofthe nervous system would be much higher.

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And here’s the thing: older adults are disproportionatelyaffected by neurological disorders. So, as the country ages — thepopulation of seniors will double by 2050 — the costs will go up.Exponentially.

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“The extraordinary rise in the total cost for neurologicaldisease is first due to the dramatic increase in the number ofpeople in the U.S. over the age of 65, who are especiallysusceptible to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Dr. CliftonGooch, a neurologist at the University of South Florida and thestudy’s lead author, is quoted saying in the report.

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Gooch adds, “Ironically, the gift of older age for most ofAmericans now brings the risk of debilitating neurological diseasesfor which no adequate treatment exists, and the cost of that carewill shortly rise to levels high enough to destabilize thehealthcare system and damage the economy.”

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And it’s not just treatment. The study’s authors say that laborand productivity are major contributing factors to the costsinvolved, because of disability. In fact, disability-related costsare higher for neurological diseases than for any other category ofillness.

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While funding for studies to treat neurological diseases mightseem to be a natural effect of such a finding, that’s not the case;heart disease and cancer are far more prominent recipients of studyfunding, despite the fact that Alzheimer’s alone affects more than5.3 million Americans. And this year, Alzheimer’s-related healthcare costs will rise above a quarter of a trillion dollars for the firsttime. By 2030, Alzheimer’s healthcare costs alone are expected tosurpass $600 billion.

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According to the report, a study by the Alzheimer’s Associationprojects the disease could eventually bankrupt Medicare.

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