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Alzheimer's to join cancer, heart disease as one of America's top fatal conditions

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/6/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Debilitating disease was the sixth leading cause of death in 2010

Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease that usually strikes the elderly. It robs the brain of its cognitive function, impacting memory and simple motor skills, leaving patients in need of around-the-clock care. It's a growing, virulent condition in the United States, where it's expected to join both cancer and heart disease among the leading causes of death.

Research has shown high levels of the amino acid homocysteine is associated with a poor memory and doubles the risk of Alzheimer's.

Research has shown high levels of the amino acid homocysteine is associated with a poor memory and doubles the risk of Alzheimer's.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/6/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Alzheimer's, causes of death, heart disease, cancer, study


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A new study of aging patients suggests Alzheimer's true toll may top half a million lives annually. Alzheimer's claimed 83,000-plus U.S. fatalities in 2010, making it the sixth-leading cause of death that year.

Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago says that its true toll may be as much as six times that.

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"Death certificates are well known to under-report deaths from Alzheimer's and other types of dementia," James, the lead author of the study published this week. "The more immediate causes of death, such as pneumonia or heart attack, are usually listed, and the underlying causes of death are usually left off."

The eight-year study followed more than 2,500 people over the Age of 65. Nearly a quarter developed Alzheimer's, and was the cause of death in about 400 people, James said.

James and his colleagues then statistically extrapolated their results to arrive at their estimate of 503,000 Alzheimer's deaths a year. Researchers at Rush University in Chicago and two California institutions, the University of California-San Francisco and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center also participated in the story.

Heart disease, in contrast was blamed for nearly 600,000 deaths in 2010 and cancer about 575,000. Those numbers are going down, while deaths from Alzheimer's are going up.

"I couldn't say when, but in the next 20 years, it could catch up to cancer," James said.

Dallas Anderson, who oversees population studies of Alzheimer's and dementia at the NIA, called the findings "eye-catching . People who I think are knowledgeable about the death registration system in the U.S. would not be surprised that the official number is low, but it is somewhat of a surprise to see that kind of a difference," she said.

These results may encourage more doctors to note Alzheimer's when filling out death certificates, something an increasing number of physicians have been doing already.

"It's just another reminder that Alzheimer's is really an important public health problem, and we need to work on it," Anderson said.

It's a sobering study about an encroaching disease that may very well cripple an entire generation of Americans. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that 5.2 million Americans had Alzheimer's disease in 2013. Alzheimer's deaths went up by 68 percent over the past decade as mortality from other major diseases declined. The association expects the number of people over 65 with the disease to climb to 7.1 million by 2025.

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