Deaths from Alzheimer's Almost Doubles over Past 15 Years
Alzheimer’s disease is a heartbreaking condition that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. According to new research, it may also be a much more aggressive killer than previously thought.
Why the Confusion?
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that just under 85,000 people die from Alzheimer’s disease each year, at least one study suggests the actual number could be as high as half a million. Appearing in the journal Neurology, the study blamed incomplete death certificates as the main cause of the discrepancies.
When someone dies, a physician will usually document the cause of death on a certificate, which is then filed with the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. Ultimately, this same information finds its way to the National Center for Health Statistics of the CDC. The agency then relies on this data to compile the official U.S. mortality figures for Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
According to experts, although an individual might succumb to death due to a specific cause, that cause often stems from Alzheimer’s. For instance, while the brain disease is famous for impacted memory and thinking skills, it also ultimately affects a person's ability to swallow. This can lead to dehydration, poor nutrition and infection. In late stages, it can also cause fatal conditions, such as aspiration pneumonia and heart failure, which are often listed on certificates as primary causes of death.
Why it Matters
If this recent study is correct, Alzheimer's is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., right behind cancer and heart disease. Experts hope this revelation will be a catalyst for greater investments in Alzheimer's research
Reducing Your Risk
While you can't completely eliminate your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, there are specific lifestyle changes you can make to minimize risk. Since research suggests that poor cardiovascular health could contribute to the disease, it's important to get plenty of exercise, maintain a healthy weight and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. You should also get plenty of sleep and work with your doctor to control high blood pressure. Mental stimulation, social engagement and effective stress management may also play a role in reducing a person's risk of Alzheimer's disease and general dementia.