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Deaths from Alzheimer's Disease Have Skyrocketed by 68 Percent in the Past Decade

Update Date: Mar 19, 2013 12:09 PM EDT

An estimated 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, making it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Already, the illness costs the United States $203 billion in healthcare, mostly from Medicare and Medicaid, and not counting unpaid caregiving. Barring a scientific breakthrough, that cost is set to skyrocket to $1.2 trillion by 2050.

The report on the subject was released by the Alzheimer's Association, an advocacy group for the illness. Though Alzheimer's disease is generally not the primary cause of death, its symptoms can accelerate other illnesses, like pneumonia, the AARP reports.

As the Associated Press explains, sufferers of Alzheimer's disease often have difficulty swallowing or moving around, with increases the likelihood of pneumonia. They also have difficulty remembering to take medications for other health concerns, like diabetes. They may have problems vocalizing that they have signs of an infection. As a result, people with Alzheimer's disease are in the hospital more frequently than other people. In fact, just 30 percent of 70-year-olds are expected to pass away before the age of 80. In sufferers of Alzheimer's disease, that number jumps to 61 percent.

According to the report, Alzheimer's disease is the second-largest contributor to death after heart disease. In addition, unlike with other diseases, deaths from Alzheimer's disease have increased by 68 percent between 2000 and 2010. Meanwhile, deaths from heart disease, stroke and HIV/AIDS have dropped during the same time period. That discrepancy is due, in part, to lack of treatment advances for the illness. While the United States' government provides $500 million in funding for the fight against Alzheimer's disease, that sum is a paltry number compared to the amount of funding it provides against heart disease ($4 billion) and cancer ($6 billion).

Fox 51 reports that there are no cures for the illness, and current treatments can only delay the time before a person needs to be placed in nursing home care. In the present, doctors can only provide advice about how to keep Alzheimer's and dementia from occurring. Quitting smoking, eating healthy and getting exercise are all a good start, as well as keeping your mind active by reading and doing crossword puzzles. Because Alzheimer's disease can take hold in the brain long before there are symptoms, the sooner you start, the better.

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