Andrea Ault-Brutus, a board member of the Long Island chapter...

Andrea Ault-Brutus, a board member of the Long Island chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, said the study underlines the impact Alzheimer’s has on Long Island seniors and their caregivers and the need for additional funding. Credit: Danielle Silverman

An estimated 1 in 8 Long Island seniors has Alzheimer’s disease, and Nassau County’s rate is in the top 15% of counties nationwide, a recently released study found.

The study is the first to estimate how many people in each U.S. county have Alzheimer’s, according to the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association, whose journal, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, published the findings on July 17.

About 31,300 seniors in Nassau and 30,500 in Suffolk have the disease, researchers estimated.

New York had the second-highest Alzheimer’s rate among states, an estimated 12.7% of residents 65 and older, the study found. Nassau’s rate was 12.5% and Suffolk’s 11.7%, proportions higher than more than 70% of counties nationwide, a Newsday analysis of the study's data found. A 2021 study that used similar methods estimated the nationwide rate at 11.3%.


  • About 1 in 8 Long Island seniors — 12.5% in Nassau and 11.7% in Suffolk — has Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recently released study that estimated rates in every U.S. county.
  • The two counties’ rates are higher than those in more than 70% of counties nationwide, an analysis of the study’s data found. New York has the second-highest rate — 12.7% — of all states.
  • Experts said the study helps government officials better understand where resources should be allocated. More funding for services for the estimated 61,800 Long Islanders with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, is needed, representatives of local nonprofits said.

Tori Cohen, executive director of the Westbury-based Long Island Alzheimer’s & Dementia Center, which provides services to people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, and to their caregivers, isn’t surprised by the high numbers.

“Our phones haven’t stopped ringing,” she said. “There’s such a need for services.”

Long Island seniors older than other counties

To calculate the county estimates, researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center used cognitive and demographic data from a health study of more than 10,800 Chicago seniors and applied that data to counties.

Rates are based on the racial, ethnic, age and gender makeup of each county’s seniors, because Black and Latino seniors have significantly higher rates of Alzheimer’s than whites, women have higher rates than men, and the risk of Alzheimer’s dramatically increases with age, according to a separate Alzheimer’s Association report released in March.

Tori Cohen, executive director of the Long Island Alzheimer's &...

Tori Cohen, executive director of the Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center, said "there’s such a need for services." Credit: John Roca

One reason for the high Long Island Alzheimer’s prevalence is that the Island’s seniors tend to be older than in other counties. In Nassau, 15% of seniors are 85 or older, a proportion higher than in nearly 90% of all U.S. counties, according to the Newsday analysis. About 1 in 3 seniors 85 and older has Alzheimer’s, compared with 5% of those 65 to 74, according to the 2021 study.

Long Island also has a higher percentage than most counties of residents 65 and older who are women, Black and Hispanic, according to the Newsday analysis.

The Bronx, where more than 3 in 4 seniors are Black or Latino, had the third-highest Alzheimer’s rate of any county with more than 10,000 people: 16.6%.

Dr. Josef Maxwell Gutman, director of outpatient neurology services for NYU Langone Hospital–Long Island in Mineola, said the county-level data is important because “it helps us to allocate resources. It can give us an estimate of where things are and where things are going.”

Yet because the study was based on data on seniors from Chicago, the metropolitan area numbers should be interpreted as only rough estimates, he said. Other methods also are imprecise, he said: Analyzing medical records, for example, does not offer a complete picture of the disease, because many people with Alzheimer’s are not formally diagnosed.

Health conditions like diabetes linked to Alzheimer's

Gutman said one reason Black and Latino people are more likely to have Alzheimer’s may be because of their higher rates of health conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes that are linked to the disease.

Those conditions can worsen in Black and Latino people because of less access to health care, said Dr. Nikhil Palekar, director of Stony Brook Medicine’s Center of Excellence for Alzheimer's Disease.

“A lot of this is due to lack of appropriate and affordable primary health care to control risk factors" for Alzheimer’s disease, such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. Palekar wrote in an email from Amsterdam, where the county-level findings were unveiled July 17 at the Alzheimer’s Association’s international conference.

More research is needed on why Black and Latino rates are higher, said Andrea Ault-Brutus, a faculty associate in population health at Hofstra University in Hempstead, and a clinical assistant professor of science education at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

“We need to have a deeper dive into, biologically, what are the reasons why we see higher rates for Black and brown individuals,” said Ault-Brutus, a board member of the Long Island chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Studies traditionally have not included enough Black and Hispanic participants, she said.

Ault-Brutus said the study’s findings underline the impact Alzheimer’s has on Long Island seniors and their caregivers and the need for additional funding.

“This research really helps to advocate for more dollars to be devoted to the issue across the board,” she said.

State spends $26 million a year on Alzheimer's

Cohen said her organization relies mostly on private contributions, and more government funding would allow it to provide more services, such as day programs for people with Alzheimer's, respite time for their caregivers to help prevent burnout, counseling and support groups. 

New York currently spends $26.4 million annually on Alzheimer’s, including on services for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, and on screenings and research, according to the state health department.

Sen. Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore), a member of the Senate health committee, said “the study is certainly the start of a conversation we need to have” on Alzheimer’s funding.

“It’s a conversation we can have with health care professionals to see how most effectively we can combat it and see whether the $26 million in resources the state presently provides are sufficient,” he said. “Maybe there are additional things we should be doing or could be doing. Maybe we could be allocating those resources in a different way.”

Cohen said she also hopes the stark statistic that 1 in 8 Long Island seniors has Alzheimer’s may lead older residents, and their loved ones, to pay more attention to early signs of dementia.

“A lot of times people do ignore things,” she said. “Most of the time when people get to us, they're already a couple of years into the disease.”

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