CDC report finds Alzheimer's death rate rose by 55 percent from 1999 to 2014

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | May 31, 2017
Alzheimers/Neurology Molecular Imaging MRI Population Health
More are dying at home
From 1999 to 2014, the rate of Alzheimer’s disease deaths in the U.S. increased by 55 percent, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Alzheimer’s Association states that Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. Over five million Americans are living with the disease, and by 2050 that’s expected to climb as high as 16 million.

CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that there were 16.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 and 25.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014, after accounting for age. This could be caused by the growing elderly population, rise in earlier-stage Alzheimer’s diagnoses, an increase in physicians reporting cause of death and fewer deaths from other causes like heart disease and stroke.
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This was the first report to provide county-level rates for Alzheimer’s deaths. The CDC researchers evaluated state- and county-level death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics Systems to identify deaths with Alzheimer’s listed as the underlying cause.

The counties with the highest death rates were mostly in the Southeast. The Midwest and West Coat were other regions with high rates.

The rate of Alzheimer’s deaths at home also increased from 14 percent in 1999 to 25 percent in 2014. Most of the deaths still take place in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, but the rate has dropped from 69 percent in 1999 to 54 percent in 2014, according to the report.

“As the number of older Americans with Alzheimer's disease rises, more family members are taking on the emotionally and physically challenging role of caregiver than ever before,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director at the CDC, said in a statement. “These families need and deserve our support."

The CDC researchers believe the caregivers and patients would benefit from education on Alzheimer’s disease and how to take care of themselves and their loved ones, as well as case management services to lessen the burden of care.

Despite the news that two anti-amyloid compounds are under investigation for treating Alzheimer’s, there currently remains no cure. But early diagnosis is important in helping patients and their families plan the medical and caregiving needs for all stages of the disease.

In August 2016, Washington University School of Medicine announced a new PET imaging agent called Fluselenamyl that has the potential to identify signs of early-stage Alzheimer’s.

In October, Massachusetts General Hospital published research on the use of MR imaging to spot patients who are in the early, presymptomatic stages of the disease.

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