One in eight deaths last year caused by de­men­tia

Daily Mail - - Life - By Steve Doughty So­cial Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

NEARLY one in eight deaths last year were caused by Alzheimer’s dis­ease and other forms of de­men­tia, fig­ures showed yes­ter­day.

De­men­tia has be­come the lead­ing cause of death as other dis­eases are grad­u­ally con­quered, and as the in­creas­ingly aged pop­u­la­tion means more and more peo­ple are vul­ner­a­ble.

The break­down from the Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics found that de­men­tia was re­spon­si­ble for 12 per cent of all deaths in 2016, with heart dis­ease, for many years the greatest killer, the cause of 11 per cent.

De­men­tia be­came the most com­mon killer in 2015 after num­bers of deaths from heart dis­ease de­clined rapidly – and last year the gap be­tween the num­ber of de­men­tia and heart dis­ease deaths widened.

The share of deaths from heart dis­ease for both men and women has more than halved since the start of this cen­tury, while de­men­tia deaths have more than dou­bled.

Va­sita Pa­tel, of the ONS said: ‘Although in­creases in longevity and im­proved treat­ment of other con­di­tions are part of the rea­son for this in­crease, im­prove­ments in recog­ni­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and di­ag­no­sis of de­men­tia and Alzheimer’s dis­ease have also con­trib­uted.’

De­men­tia is it­self a cause of death, be­cause the grad­ual de­cline in the con­di­tion of suf­fer­ers means that even­tu­ally their brain can no longer main­tain the func­tions of the body. But peo­ple in its later stages are also vul­ner­a­ble to other dis­eases and in­fec­tions. A doc­tor may choose to record any of these as the cause of death on a death cer­tifi­cate.

The ONS re­port found that there were 525,048 deaths in Eng­land and Wales in 2016, down by 0.9 per cent on the year be­fore thanks to bet­ter health and greater longevity.

A to­tal of 62,948 died from de­men­tia, 41,747 of them women and 21,201 men.

The big­gest killer among men was still heart dis­ease, but among women de­men­tia deaths were nearly dou­ble those from heart dis­ease.

A to­tal of 57,777 died from heart dis­ease, 35,418 of them men and 22,359 women.

The third most com­mon cause of death was strokes, which killed 32,627 last year.

De­men­tia was the big­gest killer of peo­ple over 80, re­spon­si­ble for nearly one in five of all deaths in this age group.

At younger ages, peo­ple were more likely to die from heart dis­ease or can­cers. For those aged be­tween 35 and 49, the greatest cause of death among women was breast cancer, and, among men, sui­cide.

The new ev­i­dence of the grow­ing threat of de­men­tia brought warn­ings from pres­sure groups over the fail­ure of gov­ern­ments to pro­duce ideas to im­prove the strug­gling sys­tem of pro­vid­ing care for older peo­ple who can no longer cope by them­selves.

Ni­cola O’Brien, of the Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety, said that the fig­ures were ‘a fur­ther wake-up call that the UK is woe­fully un­der­pre­pared to cope with the scale of the chal­lenge’.

‘Woe­fully un­der­pre­pared’

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