According to the data released by the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today, the mortality rates for Alzheimer's disease (AD) have increased to 55% between 1999 and 2014. During the same period, Alzheimer's mortality rates at home also increased from 14% to 25%, suggesting the rise in the number of caregivers that would benefit from support such as education and case management services.
A fatal form of dementia, Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the fifth leading cause of death in people between 65 to 75 years of age in the United States. Accounting for 3.6% of all deaths in 2014, Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States for all adults.
"Millions of Americans and their family members are profoundly affected by Alzheimer's disease," said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. "Our new study reveals an increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease-related deaths. As the number of older Americans with Alzheimer's disease rises, more family members are taking on the emotionally and physically challenging role of caregiver than ever before. These families need and deserve our support."
The study is the first to provide county-level mortality rates caused by AD. CDC researchers examined state- and county-level death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System to identify deaths caused by AD. According to the analysis, possible reasons for the increase include growing older adult population in the U.S., rise in AD diagnosis at earlier stages, increased reporting by doctors and others who record the death cause, and fewer deaths in old adults from other causes of death such as heart disease and stroke.
The key findings of the AD rates analysis was that the mortality rates increased from 16.5 in 1999 to 25.4 in 2014 per 100,000 people after adjusting for age. While most deaths due to Alzheimer's still occur in a nursing home or long-term care facility, the rate has fallen to 54 % in 2014 compared with 68 % in 1999. High mortality rates were reported in the Midwest and West Coast areas and the counties primarily in the Southeast recorded the highest.
The greatest risk factor for AD is age and most adults with AD are 65 years or older. As the numbers of people who die from other diseases are fewer, more people survive into adulthood and this increases the risk for AD.
"As Alzheimer's disease progresses, caregiving becomes very important. Caregivers and patients can benefit from programs that include education about Alzheimer's disease, how to take care of themselves and their loved one, and case management to lessen the burden of care," said Christopher Taylor, Ph.D., lead author and epidemiologist, Division of Population Health, CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "Supportive interventions can lessen the burden for caregivers and improve the quality of care for people with Alzheimer's disease."
Individuals should visit the physician if they come across symptoms such as memory loss, difficulties with problem solving, or misplacing objects that affect their daily life. As currently there is no cure for AD, early diagnosis is important to allow patients and their families to start planning medical and caregiving needs at all stages of the disease.
About CDC’s Healthy Aging Program
CDC's Healthy Aging Program develops high-quality scientific information to educate, inform, and translate research into practice to improve the cognitive and physical health of older Americans and their caregivers. For more information on CDC's activities related to AD and the Healthy Brain Initiative, visit https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm and www.cdc.gov/aging/healthybrain. In addition, listen to CDC's podcast on AD at https://www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/. For more information on the National plan, visit National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease: 2016 Update.