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article imageU.S. Alzheimer's deaths soar: Still no way to stop the disease

By Caroline Leopold     Aug 12, 2015 in Health
Death rates from Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disease have soared in the U.S. — Americans are more likely to die from these diseases than their peers in most other developed countries.
Cancer and heart disease deaths have fallen over the past two decades, but deaths from cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's disease have risen sharply in America, especially for adults over 75.
British researchers analyzed world mortality data and found the U.S. was second in degenerative brain disease deaths behind Finland. Neurological deaths rose in most countries in the world, the study said.
The results of the study appear in the open access journal Surgical Neurology International.
The researchers acknowledge limitations in that cognitive diseases are diverse and defined differently around the world. Also, the data analyzed was from 1989 to 1991 and 2008 to 2010 and the older data may underreport cognitive diseases. In the past decade, research on Alzheimer's has become more sophisticated and is able to include genetic/genomic profiling.
The study's findings are strikingly similar to other research reports about Alzheimer's and cognitive disease death rates in America.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the risk of death from the degenerative brain disease rose 39 percent between 2000 and 2010 while mortality rates from cancer, heart disease and stroke fell significantly.
The CDC says that these brain diseases together are the sixth leading cause of death, fifth for seniors age 65 and older. Alzheimer's disease is the most common, accounting for about 60 to 80 percent of all diagnoses.
Researchers attribute the rise in deaths to Americans are now living longer and advancing age is a major risk factor for cognitive diseases. Another challenge is that medical breakthroughs in these baffling diseases are few and far between. While effective surgical and drug treatments in cancer, heart disease and stroke have cut mortality, that has not been the case with brain diseases.
Alzheimer's Association says on its website that Alzheimer's is the only disease in the top 10 leading causes of death that cannot be cured, prevented or slowed.
Other than risk increase as a person gets older, women seem at greater risk — almost two-thirds of those affected are women, says the Alzheimer's Association.
Scientists and drugmakers are increasingly focused on patients in early stages of the progressive disease of after efforts to halt progression in those who already have symptoms failed over the past few years.
The National Institutes of Health released an ideal budget for researching effective treatments for these diseases in late July to put pressure on the federal government to allocate more money to this work.
High Cost and Burdens of Care
The healthcare costs are significant. In 2013, an estimated 5 million people in the U.S. had a dementia diagnosis at a cost of roughly $200 billion, CDC said.
The majority of people with these diseases are cared for by family members in the home. The emotional and financial strain of these caregivers is severe. As baby boomers age, the numbers of people with dementia is projected to be a staggering number, around 13.8 million by 2050, the Alzheimer's Association said.
For information on the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, refer to the online guide maintained by the National Institute on Aging.
More about US dementia deaths, Alzheimer's disease, neurogenerative diseases
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