Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia accounting for an estimated 60 to 90 percent of all dementia cases.1 Early signs include difficulty remembering names and completing familiar tasks, with later disease progression leading to disorientation, personality changes, and difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking. Although the risk for Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging. Risk factors include a family history, head trauma or traumatic brain injury, and cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and physical inactivity.
In 2013, 5 million or 11 percent of U.S. adults aged 65 and older are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease and another 200,000 below age 65 are thought to have early-onset Alzheimer’s. Due to the aging of the population, the number of adults aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple by 2050.2 Women constitute 3.2 million, or nearly two-thirds, of adults aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth leading cause of death among men and women aged 65 and older.3 Severe dementia causes complications, such as immobility and swallowing disorders, that can lead to death due to malnutrition and infections like pneumonia. Between 2000 and 2010, the age-adjusted rate of death due to Alzheimer’s for those aged 65 and older has increased by about 40 percent, from 141.2 to 196.9 deaths per 100,000 people. The increase was similar for both women and men and may reflect an increase in recognition of this disease as an underlying cause of death.4 In 2010, the age-adjusted death rate for women aged 65 and older was 30 percent higher that of their male counterparts (214.3 versus 164.8 deaths per 100,000). The greater rates of Alzheimer’s prevalence and mortality among women are related to their longer life expectancy rather than an increased sex-specific risk of disease.5
Not only are women more likely than men to have Alzheimer’s, they are also more likely to be caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s—exacting a substantial toll of emotional and physical stress. Of the 15.4 million Americans who provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, an estimated 70 percent are women.6 Given the large and increasing burden of Alzheimer’s disease, advances in prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment are greatly needed. In 2011, a new diagnostic category of “preclinical Alzheimer’s disease” was developed to aid research for early detection and treatment prior to the onset of symptoms.7
Adults Aged 65 and Older with Alzheimer’s Disease,* by Sex, 2013
Number in millions:
- Female 3.2
- Male 1.8
*Estimates are based on the Chicago Health and Aging Project incidence rates converted to prevalence estimates and applied to population projections; assumes the same proportion female as from 2010.↑
Source: Alzheimer’s Association . 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Accessed 06/30/13.
|Sex||Deaths Per 100,000 Adults, 2000||Deaths Per 100,000 Adults, 2010|
|*Deaths with Alzheimer’s disease listed as underlying cause.↑
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2010 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2012. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2010, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed 06/30/13.