What Does New Research Tells Us about Dementia Deaths?

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Dementia, which is the loss of cognitive function, usually caused by Alzheimer’s disease, is thought to be an underlying cause of death in close to three times the number of deaths in America that records currently state.

The New York Post’s article “Dementia kills double the number of Americans previously thought” reports that a study published in the journal JAMA Neurology found that national mortality rates seriously underestimate the effect of dementia. Researchers believe that 13.6% of death certificates should indicate dementia as a cause. That’s a number 2.7 times as high as the current 5% that list the disease.

“These findings indicate that dementia represents a much more important factor in US mortality than previously indicated by routine death records,” said senior study author Eileen Crimmins of the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

To come to these findings, the authors used data from a nine-year study of more than 7,000 adults in nursing homes.

The results show that there are factors much more complex than an innocent miscounting.

The study’s comparisons of vital statistics with other data sources suggest that physicians and medical examiners substantially underreport ADRD on death certificates.

“In the case of dementia, there are numerous challenges to obtaining accurate death counts, including stigma and lack of routine testing for dementia in primary care,” said lead study author Andrew Stokes of the Boston University School of Public Health. “In addition to underestimating dementia deaths, official tallies also appear to underestimate racial and ethnic disparities associated with dementia mortality.”

Researchers found that 7.1 times more black adults, 4.1 times more Hispanic adults and 2.3 times more white adults die from dementia than government records reflect.

Dementia was also more underreported as a cause of death for those individuals without a high school education and for males.

In other recent, groundbreaking research, scientists have developed an experimental blood test that can detect Alzheimer’s disease with a high rate of accuracy. This new test has researchers hopeful that they can find a simple, affordable and widely available new form of diagnosis.

They’ve also discovered that a few simple lifestyle changes could prevent close to half of all dementia cases.

Reference: The New York Post (August 25, 2020) “Dementia kills double the number of Americans previously thought”