1 in 10 people ages 65 and older in the U.S. have dementia

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In a new annual report from the American Heart Association, researchers say that brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, are closely connected to heart health.

They are affected by everyday actions and rank among the nation’s leading causes of death.

Cognitive decline and dementia are strongly related to the health of blood vessels in the brain and the brain’s blood supply, which makes the topic important and relevant for the annual statistics report, a widely used resource on heart disease.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in 2020, the most recent year for which CDC statistics are available, stroke was the leading cause of death from neurological causes and the No. 5 cause of death overall. Alzheimer’s disease was No. 7.

But the CDC data separates Alzheimer’s from other dementias; combined, the deaths would outrank stroke.

Indeed, a recent study cited in the statistics report found that Alzheimer’s and other dementias together resulted in about 258,600 deaths in 2017. That compares with 172,000 estimated deaths from stroke that same year.

The report also showed that about 2.9 million people in the U.S. had Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia in 2017.

About 1 in 10 people ages 65 and older in the U.S. have dementia. It’s more common in women than men.

Spending on dementias was among the top 10 health care costs in the U.S. in 2016, when it topped $79 billion. That was more than double the amount from 10 years earlier.

As the population ages, the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in the U.S. is projected to increase to 9.3 million by 2060.

The new report is a reflection of the increasing awareness among medical researchers on the connections between heart health and brain function.

Most people don’t link problems such as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes to brain health. The update spells out why they should.

In one analysis included in the report, obesity at midlife was associated with a 33% higher risk of developing dementia compared to people with a normal body mass index.

An individual can work to preserve their brain health, through things such as being physically active, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and controlling blood pressure and diabetes.

Some factors, however, can be out of an individual’s control, such as genetics and the effects of societal issues, known as the social determinants of health.

Overall, researchers have made great strides in recent years to better understand how common dementia is and why it happens.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about two common habits that could make your brain age fast, and low-carb diet that could help reverse brain aging.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about tooth loss linked to cognitive impairment, dementia, and results showing that 40% of dementia cases could be prevented by changing these 12 things.

The study is published in the journal Circulation. One author of the study is Evan Thacker.

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