U.S. Alzheimer's Disease Death Statistics
Alzheimer’s disease (also just referred to as Alzheimer’s) is a degenerative brain disease that affects an estimated 5.8 million Americans.
The hallmarks of Alzheimer’s include memory loss and declining cognitive abilities, often leading to the devastating inability to remember or recognize loved ones. The progressive decline of cognitive and motor functions can be fatal. In such cases, Alzheimer’s is often attributed as the underlying cause of death. Alzheimers statistics can be skewed however, if the cause of death is not attributed properly.
• 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
• Between 2000 and 2017, deaths from heart disease have decreased 9 percent, while deaths from Alzheimer's have increased 145 percent.
Alzheimer's Mortality Trends in the United States
The national rate of Alzheimer's deaths rose sharply starting in 2013. This sudden increase may be due in part to changes made to diagnostic protocols in 2011. Because Alzheimer’s is only listed as the underlying cause of death in individuals previously diagnosed before death, an increase in diagnoses would likely cause a concurrent increase in deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s.
How do Alzheimer's statistics vary by state?
In 2017, Mississippi had the highest age-adjusted rate of Alzheimer's deaths, at 49.5 deaths per 100,000 people. New York had the lowest, with 13.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
Note: Hover over a state to see its data; to view data from a different year, use the time-slider beneath the map.
Demographic Differences in Alzheimer's Deaths
Age is not the only variable that matters. Between 1999 and 2017, significantly more women than men died from Alzheimer’s. According to the most recent national data in 2017, women are about 1.4 times more likely to die from Alzheimer’s than men. The difference in death rates between men and women is known to the medical community—but the debate is still ongoing as to what physiological and social factors best explain this difference.
While women and men experience significantly different rates of Alzheimer’s deaths, their national trends over the last twenty years appear fairly similar. Both rates slowed their increase in the 2000s before sharply increasing starting around 2013 (again, possibly due to changes in diagnostic guidelines).
While Alzheimer’s fatality rates significantly increased for all races between 1999 and 2017, the magnitude of the rates are different for each race. Nationally, the age-adjusted rate was highest in 2017 for whites, and lowest for Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Why race plays a significant factor in whether one dies from Alzheimer’s is still the subject of ongoing research. According to the Alzheimer's Association, corresponding social factors, such as early-life stresses and neighborhood conditions, may play an important role.
Alzheimer’s is a disease most often associated with the elderly. Roughly 96 percent—5.5 million— of all people living with the disease are over the age of 65, and it is the fifth leading cause of death for that age group. For Americans under age 55, deaths attributed to Alzheimer's are extremely rare.
• “Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Facts and Figures.” Alzheimer’s Association.
• "Alzheimer's diagnostic guidelines updated for first time in decades." Press release, National Institute on Aging, 2011.
• "Clinical epidemiology of Alzheimer’s disease: assessing sex and gender differences." National Institutes of Health, 2014.
• "Stressful Life Experiences Age the Brain by Four Years, African Americans Most at Risk (pdf)." Alzheimer's Association, 2017.
• “Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging at Home: Health Information for Older Adults.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018.
Video Source: Alzheimer's Association