It’s no secret that America’s population is aging. But along with the many more years of life we get to experience comes an increase in age-related health issues. One area generating concern among health experts: Dementia-related deaths in the U.S. have tripled over the last two decades, with more than 260,000 in 2017.
In addition, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another 130,000 deaths in 2017 were associated with dementia as a contributing cause.
The rates of dementia vary by age, sex, race and geographic location, but the report found that more women than men died from dementia-related causes. Also, Alzheimer’s disease accounted for almost half the deaths.
What’s behind this increase in dementia-related deaths? The experts cited a few factors. For one, our medical care has improved in many areas, meaning that as fewer people die from chronic diseases such as heart disease, they’re living longer, into the ages where the risk of dementia is highest.
And, in a related vein, a large portion of older adults have multiple chronic conditions, including dementia. So, a person may have dementia at the end of life, but it might not be the cause of death.
That leads to another possible explanation, a variation in the way deaths are certified. The researchers did note geographic differences in this area.
It’s important to be mindful of the rising levels of dementia because it is a sign of things to come. The report noted that by 2060, an estimated 25 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older and at greater risk of developing dementia. That would greatly tarnish the golden years for millions of Americans.