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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease May Be Third Leading Cause Of Death

9 months, 3 weeks ago

2508  0
Posted on Sep 06, 2018, 4 p.m.

More than 500,000 people may be dying in the USA each year due to Alzheimer’s making this terrible disease the third leading killer coming in behind and rivalling cancer and heart disease according to a new study from researchers at Rush Medical Center Chicago.

Alzheimer’s disease currently ranks 6th in the nation’s leading causes of mortality with more than 83,000 deaths each year, this study suggests those stats need updating. Heart disease ranks first with close to 598,000 deaths, followed by cancer being ranked second with close to 575,000 deaths each year.

Researchers suggest those numbers may be based on inaccurate death certificate reports, review of actual deaths conducted suggest the figure should be 5-6 times higher boosting Alzheimer’s disease to third place. Should this be true this mind wasting disease deserves far more research funding for the prevention and treatment that is more on par with such as massive scope, experts suggest $2 billion a year which is 4 times what is now being spent.

Studies to determine the true effects of dementia are important to raise public awareness and such research should be priorities. Alzheimer’s and other dementias are underreported on death certificates which typically focus on the immediate cause of death such as pneumonia that would not have developed without the patient first having Alzheimer’s disease.

To calculate actual effect of Alzheimer’s deaths the team investigated more than 2,500 subjects aged 65+ who were part of 2 larger cohorts that agreed to be tested for dementia and donate after death. 1,090 subjects died over an average of 8 years, 559 of which did not have dementia at the start of the study and went on to develop it, median time of diagnosis to death was close to 4 years, and the average age was 78. Risk of excess death in subjects who developed dementia was more than 4 times higher in those ages 75-84, and three times higher among those aged 85+.

This translates to upwards of 503,400 deaths within the USA population over the age of 75 due to Alzheimer’s disease which is far greater than that estimated by the CDC numbers that have been long believed to undercount Alzheimer’s deaths. Researchers hope that this study helps to reinforce the image of this being a fatal brain disease instead of just a memory problem.  

Robert Anderson of the CDC figures is not convinced, while he acknowledges death certificates likely under report, but is skeptical saying “ it’s a stretch to extrapolate to the entire population based on one study of 2,500” and “ very difficult to believe based on a study like this that there are 500,000 deaths”; going on to says CDC figures include underlying causes of death showed perhaps 110,000 mentions of Alzheimer’s on death certificates; those very same death certificates that he acknowledged are likely to under report.

This study is important, but should not be regarded as the last word, additional studies are required. If a half million people are dying from this disease each year, funding needs to catch up for research. In recent decades great strides have been made in terms of death rates from heart disease, cancer, AIDS and HIV that have had these gains as a result of research attention and funding, it is time similar investments are made in Alzheimer’s disease.

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