Study: Alzheimer's deaths much more common than realized - News, Weather & Sports

Study: Alzheimer's deaths much more common than realized

Ann Sherman Ann Sherman
Ann Sherman (right) with her mother Harriet Conely (left) Ann Sherman (right) with her mother Harriet Conely (left)
Sheroll Carby Sheroll Carby

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There is a local push to find a cure for a debilitating disease. Chances are you know someone who had or is battling Alzheimer's disease. It's the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. New research suggests Alzheimer's may be responsible for more deaths than you might think. Experts are comparing the disease to heart disease and cancer, the nation's two biggest killers.

It's a disease that Ann Sherman has become all too familiar with.

"My entire life my mom has been my go to person for anything," said Sherman.

The roles have reversed for Sherman since her mother, Harriet Conely, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease at just 64 years old.

"She was the sharpest person I knew," said Sherman. "They would dismiss and say she seems like a normal 61, 62-year-old woman, but she wasn't my mother."

A new study, published in the journal Neurology, found annual death rates from Alzheimer's should be closer to 500,000 compared to 83,000 currently counted by the government. The numbers startling to Ann, but not surprising.

Since her mother's diagnosis she's worked closely with the Alzheimer's Association.

"Alzheimer's disease is an age related disease," said Sheroll Carby of the Alzheimer's Association. "Sixty-five and older you are at greater risk, one-in-nine 65-year-olds have it. One-in-three, 85-year-olds have it."

Carby said in the U.S. more than 5 million people have Alzheimer's disease. With baby boomers aging that number is expected to triple. Carby said death certificates record immediate cause of death and often miss the underlying cause, which is why Alzheimer's has been undercounted.

"As it progresses, people have a hard time swallowing and so their food, instead of going down to their stomach, goes down into their lungs and they develop pneumonia and die from that," said Carby. "Pneumonia that is related to the Alzheimer's disease."

So, with this new research the hope is that more money will go towards finding a cure. A cure Ann hopes will come soon.

"For my mom, there probably won't be a cure in her lifetime," said Sherman. "With speaking out and trying to get more research more funding for research that one day there will be a cure in my lifetime so my children won't have to worry about the things that I worry about for my mother."

Researchers have found a blood test that could predict the chance a person will develop Alzheimer's Disease. The new study out of Georgetown University Medical Center identified 10 blood fats that signal when brain cells are starting to degenerate. Researchers not affiliated with the study said larger studies are needed.

If you would like more information on how the Alzheimer's Association, click here.

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