04/03/2013 05:34 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2013

Dementia More Costly To U.S. Than Heart Disease Or Cancer, Study Finds

Dementia is more expensive to the U.S. than heart disease or cancer, according to a new study.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study shows that dementia cost the U.S. $109 billion in medical care in 2010. Meanwhile, heart disease cost $102 billion (taking into account inflation), and cancer cost $77 billion.

And when you include informal care, dementia actually costs the U.S. anywhere from $157 to $215 billion each year. Per person, the cost ranges from $56,290 to $41,689.

"The economic burden of caring for people in the United States with dementia is large and growing larger," study researcher Michael Hurd, a senior economist at the nonprofit organization RAND, said in a statement. "Our findings underscore the urgency of recent federal efforts to develop a coordinated plan to address the growing impact of dementia on American society."

The data used in the study was taken from the Health and Retirement Study, which includes survey responses from people ages 51 and older starting in 1992. People in the study were asked about out-of-pocket health expenses, help they required from other people and ability to do daily activities. Nearly 15 percent of people ages 71 and older were found to have dementia in 2010.

Researchers noted that the bulk of dementia costs -- 75 to 84 percent -- lie not in medical care, but in long-term care (like nursing home facilities, etc.).

The new finding is important because rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, are only expected to increase as the U.S. population ages. Recently, a report in the journal Neurology showed that the number of people with Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. is expected to triple by 2050. Everyday Health reported that there were 4.7 million people with Alzheimer's in 2010, but 13.8 million people are likely to have it by 2050.