Current research is pointing to the notion that deaths due to Alzheimer’s Disease have been going underreported. Alzheimer’s is already listed as the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). However, it is suspected that the disease may actually cause as many deaths as heart disease and cancer. Research published in the publication Neurology suggests that Alzheimer’s disease leads to other complex health issues such as pneumonia and heart failure. Because these deaths are attributed to the latter, they are not reported as deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease, which is why the researchers have begun to question the real numbers of those passing due to AD.
The study found that in a group of participants age 75-84, the death rate was four times higher for those with Alzheimer’s Disease than for those who did not have the disease. Additionally, in a group of participants age 85 and older, the death rate was three times higher for those with Alzheimer’s. Overall, the study concluded that Alzheimer’s Disease was responsible for about 1/3 of the deaths for those 75 years and older. An article published by Fox News states, “Researchers say their data also points to the fact that a single cause of death is not always accurate for older adults. While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease is usually associated with loss of memory— misplacing keys, forgetting names— as the disease progresses, it affects other parts of the brain that control unconscious functions such as breathing, swallowing and heart rate. Eventually, it begins to affect the part of the brain that controls basic function, which can lead to complications like pneumonia.”
This information reinforces the need for public awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease. With the aging of the baby boom generation and the high prevalence of Alzheimer’s associated with the aging process, the disease is a public health issue that requires much attention.