Study Reveals Alzheimer’s Mortality Rate Goes Under-Reported

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A new study is shedding light on the deadly impact of Alzheimer’s disease, which may be one of the top three causes of death in the U.S. The research, published in the journal Neurology, concluded Alzheimer’s may be an underlying cause of death at a rate five to six times greater than what is currently reported. The study was conducted by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and was lead by Bryan James, PhD, an epidemiologist with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

“Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are under-reported on death certificates and medical records,” James said in a press release. “Death certificates often list the immediate cause of death, such as pneumonia, rather than listing dementia as an underlying cause.” With only one cause listed on death certificates, an incomplete picture is created; multiple factors contribute to declining health and death in old age. As a result, statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot accurately describe the fatal effects of dementia. Without the most precise information possible, it is difficult to assess the societal toll and implications of Alzheimer’s, James stated.

For the elderly, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, the National Institute on Aging explains. It is a degenerative, progressive disease that currently has no cure. In the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s, the neurons become less capable of working efficiently, eventually ceasing to function entirely and dying. This shrinks the brain, causing memory loss and health complications.

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