Alzheimer's continues to strike victims.
Alzheimer’s disease is believed to play an even bigger role in the death of older Americans than previously believed, according to new study results. If the study results are validated, Alzheimer’s may be the third leading cause of death, ranking among cancer and heart disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently lists Alzheimer’s as the sixth-leading cause of death , well below cancer and heart disease. However, the new report, which was recently published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, highlights the fact the death certificates rarely list the cause of death as dementia, instead listing immediate causes such as pneumonia or that the person’s heart stopped beating.
Nearly half a million Americans are killed by the disease each year. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that is often associated with memory loss and confusion. However, most people do not recognize the extent to which the disease damages the body, such as impairing portions of the brain that control basic functions such as swallowing and breathing.
Although heart disease and cancer remain the top killers in the U.S., Alzheimer’s would jump from 6th to 3rd place, replacing respiratory disease in the process.
Bryan James, lead author of the study and epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says that the findings will hopefully encourage more research on a disease that is only becoming more prevalent as the population ages. He notes that current costs for patients who are suffering from Alzheimer’s are around $200 billion.
In a phone interview with Bloomberg.com, he said, “We think Alzheimer’s disease has been getting the short shrift because it hasn’t been considered a major killer, when it’s really one of the top three in the country.”
He continues, “Deaths from all of the other major causes of death are going down over time and the only one going up is Alzheimer’s disease.” James explains, “That’s because we are coming up with effective treatments and preventions for other diseases and we have yet to do that for Alzheimer’s disease.”