Twice as many women are dying from the disease, compared to men.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that dementia now causes more deaths than heart disease in England and Wales.
11.6% of deaths in England and Wales are attributed to the condition, compared with 11.5% for heart disease, the official figures have shown. Although the detection rate for dementia has risen, there is still no cure – although a number of promising treatments are being trialled.
In 2015, dementia was the cause of death for 41,283 women (15.2% of the total) and 20,403 men. When separating the stats into gender, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men – cited as the cause of 36,731 deaths (14.3% of the total), in comparison with 24,987 women. Women have a greater chance of dying from dementia because they live longer than men.
Typical symptoms of dementia include a decline in memory and skills such as language or planning. However, those suffering from advanced dementia often become weak, undernourished, and suffer from more illnesses and falls. The immediate cause of death in these cases is typically an infection like pneumonia. The increase in dementia cases will place a strain on the NHS which is already treating an increasing number of frail people, according to experts.
Deaths as a result of heart disease have halved over the last 15 years with people quitting smoking and having access to drugs such as statins. By contrast, the rate of death from dementia has doubled over the past six years – highlighting the growing urgency of finding an effective cure. According to the ONS, the fact that people are able to survive other diseases means they can now live long enough to get dementia. Across all age groups, the death rate is falling – except for the over 85s where the death rate has risen by more than a quarter since 2001.
However, there are other factors that have played a part in the rising death rates: three years ago, the Government began to drive for better diagnosis. Around two thirds of the 850,000 people that are thought to suffer from dementia in Britain now know that they have it – an increase from less than half. There has also been increased awareness of the condition, and more accurate reporting. Experts believe that these factors are only partly responsible for the growing numbers, with a genuine rise in the number of cases being evident. The total number of people suffering from dementia is expected to reach a million in a decade, and two million by 2050. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s which has been linked to a build-up of plaques in the brain.
The burden of ill health has shifted to chronic, age-related illnesses, which has huge implications for the provision of health and social care in England . . . The most important thing you can do is take action to reduce your risk of dementia. This means maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, drinking less and not smoking.
What you can do
Although there is no certain way to prevent all types of dementia, there are several things you can do to lower your risk – and at the same time, reduce your risk of developing other problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet – a Mediterranean-style diet is recommended
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly – see our article on lifting weights
- Not drinking too much alcohol
- If you smoke, quitting smoking
- Making sure you keep your blood pressure at a healthy level
- Keeping mentally active through education or puzzles which can help improve memory and thinking
Dementia can affect both young and old, and the rate of progression is different for everyone. Dementia is certainly not the only condition that can cause a loss of mental capacity either – a serious accident or stroke can leave you unable to manage your own affairs.
If you lose mental capacity, your partner, family or friends will have to apply to the Court for a Deputyship Order to be able to manage your financial affairs and make decisions about your health/care. This is an expensive and lengthy process. This applies even if you and your partner have joint accounts – see: “Our joint bank account has been frozen!”
A better approach is to make a Lasting Power of Attorney which allows you to nominate someone you trust to make decisions for you about your finances, property, health and care – should you not be able to make these decisions for yourself.
You should also ensure you have made a Will, whatever your age. Shockingly, two thirds of UK adults have not taken this simple step, and around a third of us will die intestate. Many are surprised to discover that if you die without a Will, your entire estate does not automatically go to your partner. The laws of intestacy (i.e. what happens to your estate if you haven’t made a Will) are complex, and the Government’s Bona Vacantia list of estates where there is no known eligible heir has grown to around 12,000.
If you have already been diagnosed with dementia or a diagnosis is likely, you may find our article: “I’ve been diagnosed with dementia”: legal and financial considerations helpful.
Speak to us
We would be pleased to speak to you about making a Will and Lasting Power of Attorney, without any obligation. April King Legal’s headquarters are in Nottingham and we have locations across the UK. We would be happy to see you at your local office or visit you in your home if this is more convenient.