Healthy Aging

1 in 3 Older Adults Now Dies With Dementia


One in every three Americans over 65 now dies with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, according to sobering new statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Although the death certificate may not directly list dementia as a cause of death, indirectly it is a factor, according to Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association. The brain disorder, marked by memory loss and confusion, makes people more vulnerable to pneumonia and other illnesses, and those often are listed as the official cause of death, Carrillo told Senior Planet.

It’s the difference between dying  of Alzheimer’s and dying with it, she says. “Over 83,000 people in the US died last year from Alzheimer’s, but up to 450,000 died with it.”

The number of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease in the US rose steeply in the decade from 2000 through 2010, increasing by 68 percent, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The increase per 100,000 people in the populations and by age range was 39 percent.)

Why Is Alzheimer’s Increasing?

Population growth helps to explain some of the increase, Carrillo says, as more older Americans survive cancer, heart disease and other diseases and live to older ages.

“The other reason is, we are getting better at documenting Alzheimer’s,” she says.

Treatment Challenges

While we’ve seen more success in identifying and diagnosing Alzheimer’s, treatment  options have a long way to go. Drug treatments now available treat symptoms only. Those symptoms occur long after the initial brain changes have occurred, experts believe.

Available treatments don’t work for everyone and they wear off over time, Carillo says, adding, “We need treatments that actually change the course of the disease.”

Meanwhile, keep your brain healthy. “Research has demonstrated that the healthier your brain, the more active your lifestyle, the more you can actually potentially delay cognitive declines,” Carrillo tells Senior Planet.

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