Dementia-linked death more than doubled in the United States in the past two decades, according to a government report.
The National Center for Health Statistics reviewed information from all death certificates filed across the country and found that, in 2017, the neurodegenerative disease is the underlying cause of death among 261,914 people. About 46 percent of these deaths were due to Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia.
In their own estimates, dementia caused 66.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017. In comparison, in 2000, the neurodegenerative disease caused 30.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
Dementia Deaths Rising
The researchers could not pinpoint the exact reason for the significant increase in death from dementia in the past two decades. However, they speculated that some of the increase might be attributed to changes in the coding rules in the past few years.
Ellen Krakow, a statistician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the authors of the study, added that the aging population might also be fueling the increase of dementia deaths in the United States.
"Part of what is likely happening is people are living to older ages, and those are the ages where your risk of dementia is the highest," Kramarow told WebMD. "If you haven't died of heart disease or cancer or something else and you get to the very oldest ages, your risk for getting dementia is higher."
However, experts warned that the number of deaths associated with dementia could be higher. Often, the disease is underreported on death certificates.
Dementia In Numbers
The report also detailed the number of dementia deaths based on factors such as age, gender, and race. The researchers found that the rate was higher for women with 73 deaths per 100,000 people than men with 56.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
The number of deaths was also higher among whites with 70.8 deaths per 100,000 people than blacks with 65 deaths per 100,000 people and Hispanics with 46 deaths per 100,000 people. The findings were surprising because previous research has shown that blacks and Hispanics have a higher risk of developing dementia than whites.
Age is a major factor of dementia. Among people aged 65 to 74 years old, dementia was the underlying cause of about 57 deaths per 100,000 people. The number significantly among the older age group, causing 2,702 deaths per 100,000 people.