Study says Alzheimer's death toll higher than reported
New research at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may be the cause of death in many more cases than listed, perhaps nearly as many as the top two killers, cancer and heart disease.
The researchers say that misidentification of the cause of death is to blame. For instance, pneumonia may be listed as the immediate cause of death, but dementia is the underlying cause.
For the study, researchers followed 2,566 people over 65 who received annual testing for dementia. Over an average of eight years, 1,090 of the participants died. An autopsy was performed and Alzheimer’s was confirmed in 90 percent of the patients clinically diagnosed.
After analyzing the data, researchers found that the death rate was more than four times higher for participants between 75 and 84 after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and three times as high for people over 85. This would mean that an estimated 503,400 deaths were attributed to Alzheimer’s for people older than 75 in 2010, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported only 83,494 deaths related to Alzheimer's. The study estimates that cause of death from Alzheimer’s should be six times higher.