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Public Health Rep. 1997 Nov-Dec;112(6):497-505.

Alzheimer's disease as a cause of death in the United States.

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Mortality Statistics Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, MD 20782, USA.



To describe the scope of mortality from and trends in Alzheimer's disease, to show how Alzheimer's disease ranks as a leading cause of death, to describe a methodological change regarding ranking, and to discuss issues related to the reporting of Alzheimer's disease on death certificates.


The authors analyzed mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System.


Alzheimer's disease has increasingly been reported as a cause of death on death certificates in the United States; however, this increase may represent a variety of factors including improved diagnosis and awareness of the disease or changes in the perception of Alzheimer's disease as a cause of death. In 1995, Alzheimer's disease was identified as the underlying cause of 20,606 deaths. Overall, Alzheimer's disease was the 14th leading cause of death in 1995; for people 65 years of age or older, it was the 8th leading cause of death. Both death rates and cause-of-death ranking differed by selected demographic variables.


In recognition of the importance of the condition as a major public health problem, Alzheimer's disease was added to the list of causes eligible to be ranked as leading causes of death in the United States beginning with mortality data for 1994. Several issues need to be kept in mind in interpreting mortality data on Alzheimer's disease, including how diagnoses are made, how the condition is classified, and the purpose of death certificates.

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