The number of people dying from Alzheimer’s disease in the US could be up to six times higher than reported, according to researchers.
The study – published in the journal Neurology – found that an estimated 503,400 deaths from Alzheimer’s occurred in people aged over age 75 in 2010, which is more than six times higher than the 83,494 reported on death certificates.
The researchers also suggest that Alzheimer’s disease may contribute to close to as many deaths in the United States as heart disease or cancer, belying its current position as the sixth leading causes of death.
Taking 2,566 people aged 65 and older who were receiving annual testing for dementia, the researchers found that after an average of eight years 1,090 participants died.
Within the study, a total of 559 participants without dementia at the start of the study developed the condition, and the average time from diagnosis to death was about four years. After death, Alzheimer’s disease was confirmed through autopsy for about 90 percent of those who were clinically diagnosed. The average age of the participants was 78.
The death rate was more than four times higher after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in people age 75 to 84 and nearly three times higher in people age 85 and older. More than one-third of all deaths in those age groups were attributable to Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Society comment:
George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘It is a shocking finding that hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are dying without knowing they have dementia. Clearly this shows just how far we have to go before everyone can get the timely diagnosis that opens the door to support and potential treatments.
‘Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition for which there is currently no cure. We need more support to help people get this diagnosis earlier so we can help people live better with the condition.’