Dementia is still the leading cause of death in England and Wales, new Government data has revealed.
For the second-year running, the neurological disorder has claimed more lives than heart disease – the world’s leading killer.
It was responsible for 62,948 deaths registered in 2016, making up 12 per cent of the total figure, Office for National Statistics figures show.
Women were more susceptible to dying from dementia, which experts believe could be down to them living longer than men, on average.
The medical community warned that more needed to be done to cut deaths when it first pipped heart disease to be the biggest killer in 2015.
Dementia was responsible for 62,948 deaths registered in 2016, making up 12 per cent of the total figure, Office for National Statistics figures show
Over-65s are known to be most at risk from the disease as a result of their increased blood pressure and changes in the immune system.
Death rates from dementia have more than doubled over the last five years. A small increase was noted from the year previous in the new data. Some 61,686 lives were lost from the disease in 2015.
The slight jump in such deaths has been put down to medical advances in treating other illnesses, allowing them to live longer.
While other experts suggested the growing mortality rates of dementia could be down to doctors having become better at diagnosing the disease.
What do the experts say?
Vasita Patel, ONS statistician, said: ‘Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was once again the leading cause of death for England and Wales in 2016, with an increase in number of deaths compared with 2015.
‘Although general increases in longevity and improved treatment of other conditions are part of the reason for this increase, improvements in recognition, identification and diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have also contributed.’
Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘Prime Minister Theresa May wants to correct the burning injustices in modern society: the frightening figures today further reinforce that dementia is one of society’s most burning injustices, and defeating it must be a priority for her government.
‘As well as being a leading cause of death, research has also shown that dementia is one of the key reasons for life expectancy increases slowing.
LIFE EXPECTANCY INCREASING IN THE UK
Life expectancy in the UK has increased slightly for both men and women – although progress is slowing, new figures show.
A girl born between 2014 and 2016 is expected to live until 82.9 years old, whereas a baby boy could see 79.2 years, an increase of 0.1 per cent on 2013 to 2015, the Office for National Statistics found last month.
Males born in the same two-year period have a 21 per cent chance of living until 90, while a female has a 32 per cent chance of becoming a nonagenarian.
Currently, a 65-year-old man can expect to see a further 18.5 years of life, whereas a woman of the same age can expect to live a further 20.9 years.
‘There are currently 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia. Dementia doesn’t just devastate the lives of people with the condition, it tears families apart and leaves a tail of destruction in its path, but this outlook can be changed through research.
‘What makes dementia one of the greatest medical challenges of modern society is the fact that we still lack a life-changing treatment to offer those affected. To defeat dementia, we must invest in research and it is essential that the condition is a national priority.’
Dr Hilda Hayo, chief executive of Dementia UK, said: ‘Sadly we recognise these statistics from our work supporting families.
‘Whilst there has been some improvement in end of life care for people with dementia, it is inconsistent across the country.’
Nearly twice the amount of women (41,747) were robbed of their lives by dementia, compared to the 21,201 deaths recorded in men.
Heart disease deaths
The biggest killer of men in England and Wales was heart disease, which had been at the top of the overall death table since the figures began in 2011.
Some 35,418 men and 22,359 women died from ischaemic heart diseases – more widely known as coronary heart disease, a build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Despite the latest figures, coronary heart disease is still believed to be responsible for more than seven million global deaths yearly.
The figures did show a 3.9 per increase in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease over the course of one year in men.
Experts said it could be down to male life expectancy continuing to improve, with recent Government data showing boys born today can expect to reach 79.2 years old – a slight jump.
What else were the big killers?
Strokes were the third biggest killer (32,627 deaths) in England and Wales, the data showed.
Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, branched under the term chronic lower respiratory disorders, claimed 31,384 lives and lung cancer 30,570.
ONS uses a grouping pattern based on the one used by the World Health Organisation to analyse mortality patterns. As a result, the leading causes of death figures only go back as far as 2011.