Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative condition that has devastating implications for those afflicted. An estimated 4 million Americans, mainly elderly, have this condition, which is characterized by forgetfulness in early stages and increasingly severe debilitating symptoms as the disease progresses over what can be as long as a 20-year period. As an individual’s impairment increases, informal or formal care giving becomes necessary to take care of basic needs.
Annually, an estimated $80 to $100 billion dollars are spent on health care expenses or lost in wages for the persons with Alzheimer’s disease or their care givers. At later stages of the disease, persons with Alzheimer’s disease are bedridden and vulnerable to developing other medical conditions and dying before they would if they did not have Alzheimer’s disease (1). Physicians report that Alzheimer’s disease caused the death of 21,397 persons in 1996 and contributed to the death of 21,703 additional persons. This information is from death certificates completed by physicians for all deaths in the United States, a fundamental source of information on what caused death for the 2.3 million deaths in the United States.
The risk of dying from Alzheimer’s disease has leveled off in recent years after rapid increases in the early 1980’s and subsequent slower growth in the 1990’s. The trend likely reflects changes in attitudes of physicians and the public about attributing Alzheimer’s disease as a cause of death as well as the availability of improved diagnostic procedures; the recent leveling in mortality trends from this condition may signal that death certificate diagnoses for Alzheimer’s disease are more reliable now.
Alzheimer’s disease is a major cause of death, which exhibits variations by age, sex, race, and geographic area. This report provides recent mortality data on Alzheimer’s disease. A previous report covers historic trends (2).
Source: Natl Vital Stat Rep 1999 Jun 30;47(20):1-8
PMID: 10459279, UI: 99388571