Home > Diagnosis, Medical issues, Statistics > Dementia Causes More Deaths Than Previously Thought?

Dementia Causes More Deaths Than Previously Thought?

Earlier today, I ran across a report of another interesting study.  Researchers at Yale University were looking into a new way of reporting how people die.  And, in the course of their work, they have discovered that dementia may contribute to a great deal more deaths than has previously been considered by the medical community.

The current system allows the doctor who is completing a death certificate to record only one cause of death for the individual.  However, for many (especially older adults) there are multiple health conditions that work together to cause a person to die — sometimes as many as five or more.  For example, a person whose official cause of death may be listed as heart disease may also have been suffering from obesity, diabetes, kidney failure, and . . . dementia.  Or, a person who may have died because of a fall may have neglected to follow safety guidelines prescribed by his physical therapist because of lapses in memory and judgment due to dementia.  Yet another person with dementia may have neglected to follow necessary precautions to reduce complications from diabetes.

At present, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention attributes only three percent of all deaths in the U.S. to dementia, making it number six on the list of the most frequent causes.  However, when the Yale researchers looked at deaths reported to Medicare, they discovered that fifteen health conditions had contributed to 97% of these.  The most common was heart disease, involved in 20% of all reported deaths.  But dementia came in second, contributing to 13% of deaths.  Lung diseases (bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, etc.) were found in 12.4% of deaths, with pneumonia in 5.3%.  Cancer was found in only 5.6% of those who had died, and diabetes was absent from the list altogether.

Dr. Mary Tinetti, who led the Yale group, stated that much more research needs to be done before any definite conclusions can be reached.  But, all the same, these findings do suggest that we need to find a more accurate way of reporting causes of death in our populace.  And, in so doing, we may discover that there are many more factors to consider in extending the longevity of our loved ones.

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  1. July 29, 2012 at 10:43 PM

    Thanks for this, I have thought for some time this must be the case! 🙂

  2. Vinnie Winzelberg
    August 6, 2012 at 2:50 AM

    Concussion can be damaging to the brain specially if the head has been hit so hard. It is always advisable to get an x-ray if you have been hit on the head.”.;,`

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