How Alzheimer's Kills
When legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt died Monday at the age of 64—less than 5 years after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type—many people were left wondering just how this disease, which is characterized by memory loss, leads to death. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, it often does so indirectly.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease and there is no cure. It's the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC, and leads to a number of life-threatening complications. As the disease progresses, patients are unable to eat, move, or even breathe on their own. Blood clots, infections, and difficulty swallowing are common.
Complications of Alzheimer's also can weaken the immune system, increasing the risk for serious health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost 85,000 people died of the disease in the United States in 2013. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease typically begin in the mid-60s, while Ms. Summitt was diagnosed at the early age of 59.
Image Credit: Thinkstock