Alzheimer’s Disease A Deadlier Threat Than Previously Thought, Study Finds

With the number of people living with dementia expected to double to 65.7 million by 2030, no one doubts the seriousness of Alzheimer’s.

And now a new study hones this message even more by suggesting that the mind-destroying disease may contribute to almost as many deaths in the United States as heart disease or cancer.

Research published on March 5 in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are under-reported on death certificates and medical records. Currently, Alzheimer’s disease falls sixth on the list of leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while heart disease and cancer are numbers one and two, respectively. These numbers are based on death certificate reports.

“Death certificates often list the immediate cause of death, such as pneumonia, rather than listing dementia as an underlying cause,” said Dr. Bryan D. James of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the study’s author, in a release. James added that attempting to identify a sole cause of death does not always reflect reality, as multiple health factors often are at play in the deaths of older people.

“The estimates generated by our analysis suggest that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease far exceed the numbers reported by the CDC and those listed on death certificates,” James added.

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