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Is Alzheimer's Now the 3rd Leading Cause of Death?

A new analysis using US data shows that upwards of 500,000 deaths a year, or more than a third of death in older adults, are due to Alzheimer's disease (AD). According to this, it would make AD the third leading cause of death in the US, after heart disease and cancer! That's a staggering jump over the 80,000 deaths that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attributed to AD in 2010.

To determine this, the researchers behind the latest analysis used a statistical method called population attributable risk, which estimated the percentage of deaths due to AD that were in excess of what would be expected in participants if they didn't have AD.

The analysis found that in those aged 75 to 84 years, the rate of mortality was more than 4 times higher in those with a diagnosis of AD after adjustment for sex, race, and education. In those aged 85 years and older, the risk was nearly 3 times higher.

The researchers then extrapolated those numbers to deaths in the 2 age categories of interest across the country in 2010. They came up with a figure of 503,400 deaths among Americans aged 75 and older that were attributable to AD, or about a third of the deaths in the elderly.

Knowing the toll AD takes is important, not only from a scientific standpoint but also in terms of public policy, according to the lead researcher. From that perspective, he said, the new study "is just one more piece of ammunition in the gun" that could help in the lobby for health care reforms related to this "terrible disease."

This echos a study published last year that found that AD now costs the US about as much as heart disease and cancer. Those figures, of course, were based on the estimated prevalence of AD, so if the estimated prevalence was too low back then, it would mean that the disease is even more expensive to the economy than previously thought! Further, the costs will only go up as Baby Boomers begin to enter their years with the highest AD risk.

Since there is no known "cure" for AD, prevention is critical. Have a look at the numerous other related studies I covered previously and see what you can do to prevent this horrible condition.

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Source: Contribution of Alzheimer disease to mortality in the United States

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