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Thursday, November 08, 2012
Dementia deaths more than double in a decade
Is it just me or is the United Kingdom paying proportionately more attention to dementia and its societal consequences than the United States? Maybe it's just a product of Google and the various other search engines I use, but for a country much smaller than the Southeastern United States, they seem to publish more articles on the subject and conduct more studies than any other like-sized country. Like the headline for this article, which should be major news anywhere. Does Britain have an epidemic of dementia? And if so, is it part of a worldwide trend? Do these numbers extrapolate globally? What in the world could cause brain disease to double in just 10 years? Can the fact that we're living longer really cause the number of such deaths to double in just a decade? Any ideas out there?
From The Telegraph:
The proportion of people dying of dementia has more than doubled in a decade, official figures show, and by 2021 one in eight of all deaths could be due to the brain disease
Every tenth woman in England and Wales now dies of dementia (10.3 per cent), according to mortality figures for 2011 from the Office for National Statistics, up from 4.3 per cent in 2001.
In men, the proportion of deaths from dementia has risen from 2.0 to 5.2 per cent over the course of the decade.
Should these rises be sustained, it will mean that by 2021 about 12 per cent of all deaths will be attributed to dementia.
Experts said the figures were a “scary” reminder of the scale of the dementia timebomb facing Britain
At the moment some 800,000 people in Britain are living with dementia, including about 500,000 from the most common type, Alzheimer’s. Less than half (43 per cent) have received a formal diagnosis. One million are expected to have dementia by 2021.
Professor Clive Ballard, head of research at The Alzheimer’s Society, said the increase in deaths attributed to dementia was due both Britain's ageing population and to a greater understanding that the disease did actually kill people.
He said: “Dementia is getting more common, because people are living longer.
“There’s an exponential increase in dementia with age. One in 20 people at 65 have it, but that increases to one in five at 80, one in three at 90 and one in two at 95.
“So once you get more and more people living beyond 80, you will get more people dying from dementia.”
He also said doctors were now far more likely to record dementia as the underlying cause of death, due to a better understanding of it.
He explained: “In very severe Alzheimer’s, people get bed-bound, can’t clear their chests properly and become very vulnerable to infections like pneumonia.
“Whereas 10 years ago a doctors might have put ‘pneumonia’ as the cause of death on the death certificate of someone with dementia, now they are more likely to put ‘pneumonia and dementia’.”
People with Alzheimer's were also "much more prone" to strokes because the amyloid proteins associated with the disease in the brain also tended to block blood vessels.
Just as doctors had realised for years that people with end-stage cancer were really killed by the disease, rather than the final trigger such as an infection or a heart attack, so they were now accepting a similar thing happened in those with dementia.
Given that one in three 65-year-olds will develop dementia during the rest of their lives, Prof Ballard thought predictions that one in eight could be dying of the disease by 2021 might prove on the low side.
“If we assume that half of those with dementia will die of it, that suggests a sixth of all deaths could be due to the disease,” he said.
“The proportion of the increase is quite scary, and that’s why we need to have a plan now, rather than burying our heads in the sand.
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