THURSDAY & # 39 ;, March 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) – Dementia is now one of the leading killers in the United States, with the rate of disease-related deaths more than doubling over the past two decades.
"Overall, age-adjusted dementia mortality rates increased from 30.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 66.7 in 2017," says a group of researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In absolute terms, the new analysis of death certificate data shows that dementia has been reported as the main cause of nearly 262,000 deaths in 2017, with 46% of those having died due to Alzheimer's disease.
This depends on about 84,000 deaths attributed to dementia in 2000.
"It's a huge increase from 2000 to 2017," said Keith Fargo, director of scientific and awareness programs for the Alzheimer's Association. "It's a big problem, and it's getting bigger."
The aging of the American population is probably fueling this increase in dementia-related deaths, said researcher Ellen Kramarow, a CDC health statistics.
"Part of what is probably happening is that people live in old age, and those are the ages where the risk of dementia is the highest," Kramarow said. "If you didn't die from heart disease or cancer or something else and reach older ages, the risk of contracting dementia is higher."
Not only do people live longer, but older people now make up a larger percentage of the overall population, said Fargo, who was not involved in the study.
A part of the increase observed could also be attributed to better records in terms of dementia-related deaths, added Fargo.
"The doctors are improving in identifying dementia and putting it on the death certificate," he said.
Even then, this report probably underestimates the number of people who actually die of dementia, Fargo said.
"We know that death certificates underestimate the true mortality rate from Alzheimer's and other dementias," he said.
At that point, the new report also detected 129,700 deaths in 2017, in which dementia was listed on the death certificate as a contributing factor, but not the leading cause of death, Kramarow pointed out.