Here’s a Look At How Alzheimer’s Disease kills.
How does Alzheimer’s disease lead to a person’s death?
Alzheimer’s disease destroys nerve connections in the brain, making it progressively more difficult to do ordinary things like move around, swallow and feed yourself. While the disease devastates the brain, it does not kill you. Complications of the decline in brain function is what leads to death.
Not being able to swallow properly is particularly dangerous. The vast majority of those with Alzheimer’s disease die from aspiration pneumonia – when food or liquid go down the windpipe instead of the esophagus, causing damage or infection in the lungs that develops into pneumonia.
Complications of Alzheimer’s disease are most likely to kill patient
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Sepsis infections from undiagnosed urinary tract infections
- Infections in general
- Injuries from falls
- Malnutrition and dehydration
What happens to the brain of a person who has Alzheimer’s disease ?
Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to decline in complicated ways. The changes in brain function happens when abnormal deposits of proteins form amyloid plaques (clusters of protein fragments) and tau tangles (twisted strands of another type of protein) causing neurons (a specialized cell that transmits nerve impulses) to stop functioning and die.The death of neurons eventually leads to problems with bodily functions, such as swallowing and mobility. This puts the person with the disease at risk for poor nutrition, dehydration, blood clots, falls and infection, according to WebMD. From there, the disease contributes to conditions such as pneumonia and heart failure.
Death rate for Alzheimer’s Disease
It is difficult to know how many deaths are caused by complications of Alzheimer’s disease because of the way causes of death are reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 84,767 people died from Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. That number is probably low.The CDC considers a person to have died from Alzheimer’s disease if the death certificate lists Alzheimer’s disease as an underlying cause of death.
However, death certificates often list the primary cause of death for a person with Alzheimer’s disease as pneumonia, heart failure or infection. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a recent study suggested that the number of deaths from complications of Alzheimer’s disease may be five to six times higher than what the CDC reports. Also, older patients with Alzheimer’s disease often have other medical conditions – coronary artery disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, stroke and cancer – that could cause death if the person was not suffering from Alzheimer’s disease .
Some Alzheimer’s Disease facts:
- 61 percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease at age 70 are expected to die before the age of 80. Thirty percent of people age 70 without Alzheimer’s disease would be expected to die by age 80.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
- An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease now.
- By mid-century, if a cure is not found, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.
- In 2015, 15.9 million family members and friends provided 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. That care had an estimated economic value of $221.3 billion.
- Approximately two-thirds of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia caregivers are women. Thirty-four percent are age 65 or older.
- In 2013, Alzheimer’s disease care cost $203 billion in the United States. Costs could surpass the $1 trillion mark by 2050.