Web MD reports that newly diagnosed dementia sufferers survive for an average of just four and a half years after diagnosis.
The article discusses the results of a University of Cambridge study, published in the journal Lancet, that followed 13,000 men and women aged over 65.
Over the 14 year study period, 438 of the participants developed some form of dementia with 356 of the dementia sufferers dying. The median age at diagnosis was 83 for men and 84 women, median age at death was 87 and 90 for men and women respectively. In terms of survival following diagnosis, women fared marginally better than men, surviving an average of 4.6 years compared to 4.1 years for males. Factors such as being married and living at home rather than at a rest home did not have a significant effect on survival rates.
Survival rates were higher among younger people, those aged between 65 and 70 averaged slightly over ten years. Dementia sufferers over the age of 90 faired the worst in the study with an average survival time of 3.8 years. Those with a higher degree of functional cognitive impairment at diagnosis, as measured by the Blessed Dementia Scale, also had significantly lower survival times.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. As the world population continues to age, dementia rates are expected to double every 20 years and Alzheimer’s is expected to become one of the major health problems facing the western world. Currently no cure exists for Alzheimer’s disease and treatment options are extremely limited.
Interestingly, while the presence of dementia lowered survival rates dramatically, the actual decline in cognitive function was rarely the cause of death for the person, suggesting dementia increases individuals susceptibility to other diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Studies estimate that as many as half of dementia patients will die from bronchopneumonia and around a quarter from ischemic heart disease.
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