Watch Out Heart Disease and Cancer; Alzheimer's is Next

There's been some talk about moving cancer from the second highest cause of death to first place. But what's even more astounding is that Alzheimer's has now moved into third.

According to The Washington Post, Alzheimer's used to be the sixth  leading cause of death, but experts are now taking a step back because the stats may be wrong -- many more people may have it than is reported.

Tara Bahrampour writes, "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Alzheimer’s as the sixth-leading cause of death, far below heart disease and cancer. But the new report, published Wednesday in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, suggests that the current system of relying on death certificates for causes misses the complexity of dying for many older people and underestimates the impact of Alzheimer’s."

She adds that, while the CDC attributed about 84,000 deaths in 2010 to Alzheimer’s, the report estimated that number to be a whopping 503,400 among people 75 and older. That puts it in a close third place, behind heart disease and cancer, and well above chronic lung disease, stroke and accidents, which rank third, fourth and fifth.

How can we be so wrong in our estimates? More than five million Americans suffer from the disease today.  And here's the thing: many death certificates do not list Alzheimer's as cause of death, though it is always fatal.  They may list more immediate causes, like heart failure.  

Bahrampour points out that, with the aging of the baby-boom generation, this number is expected to nearly triple by 2050 if there are no significant medical breakthroughs, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.


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