Alzheimer's might be the cause of more deaths in the United States than previously thought.
Currently, Alzheimer's ranks number six on the list of mortality rates in America causing nearly 84,000 deaths per year. But a new study suggests that number might actually be closer to half a million. (Via KCTV, The Washington Post)
That's about six times higher than the government total, which would put Alzheimer's just behind heart disease and cancer when it comes to causes of death.
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago published their study Wednesday arguing dementia is usually left off death certificates.
The study followed more than 2,500 people over the age of 65 for eight years. Of those people, more than a fifth developed Alzheimer's, and about 400 deaths were associated with the disease. (Via American Academy of Neurology)
The lead author of the study says, "Death certificates are well known to underreport deaths from Alzheimer's and other types of dementia." (Via CNN)
Some doctors argue that's because it's not the immediate cause of death.
"Pneumonia, urinary track infection, heart attack, those are things that are obvious to people when someone dies. And that's what a doctor will frequently list on the death certificate as the cause of death." (Via NBC)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the number of deaths caused by Alzheimer's isn't as large as the study reports.
"The CDC acknowledges Alzheimer's is likely under-reported on death certificates, but does not agree the gap is as large as what's suggested in this new study." (Via WGAL)
Still, the disease is a growing problem. NBC reports it is estimated that more than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer's, and the Alzheimer's Association says that number is expected to triple by 2050 if there are no medical breakthroughs.