MADISON, Wis. - Deaths caused by Alzheimer’s disease climbed 55 percent in the last 15 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC believes the increase is a result of an aging population, improved diagnosis and an increased willingness by physicians to list Alzheimer’s as the cause of death.
“That deaths are increasing is important. It shows that we haven’t made much progress in Alzheimer’s prevention or effective treatment,” said Dr. Cynthia Carlsson, a geriatric specialist with UW Health.
Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
While the number of deaths caused by Alzheimer’s rose by 55 percent, it is likely the number is even higher because the disease is still under diagnosed.
“We’re still under recognizing Alzheimer’s. Still about only 50 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease have the disease recognized, even in a country like the United States,” Carlsson said.
Currently it is estimated that 5.5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that number will increase to 16 million by 2050.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and no-long term treatments proven to reduce symptoms.
Doctors with UW Health are working to find that cure and develop treatments to reduce or delay the onset of the disease.
“If we can live to be five years down the road and not have memory problems, that’s going to get us another high school graduation, and another wedding, and another important milestone in our family’s lives,” Carlsson said.
While doctors involved in the Alzheimer’s research are confident a cure and treatments will be found, they say increases in funding would help to expedite the process.
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