Dementia is now Britain’s biggest killer, overtaking heart disease for first time new figures have shown.
Some 70,366 people died from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia last year compared to around 66,076 deaths from heart disease.
In 2015 heart disease was the biggest killer with 69,785 death, while 69,182 people died from dementia.
The switch is being driven by the ageing British population, combined with improvements in heart health, as more people are prescribed statins and beta blockers to cope with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Charities have called on the government to double its annual £132 million dementia research funding over the next five years. Projections suggest that 1.2 million will be living with dementia by 2040.
The new figures combine data released last year from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) with new mortality statistics from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, giving a full picture for Britain.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “These startling figures emphasise the health crisis we face in the UK at the hands of dementia. Year-on-year, we are seeing more people conquer and survive serious health conditions like heart disease, but deaths from dementia continue to rise.
“The fact that there are currently no treatments to slow or stop the diseases behind dementia brings into sharp focus the scale of the challenge and the urgency with which we must tackle it.
“Dementia may be the biggest killer in the UK today, but research has the power to stop this from being the case in the future.”
FAQ | Dementia
What is dementia?
Dementia is a loose term used to describe different degenerative disorders that trigger a gradual loss of brain function, including:
- memory loss
- thinking speed
- mental agility
Is it the same as Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.
Who gets it?
One in three people over 65 will develop dementia, and two-thirds of people with dementia are women.
Is there a cure?
Most types of dementia can't be cured, but if it is detected early there are ways to slow it down and maintain mental function.
Around 850,000 people in Britain are living with dementia, the majority of whom have Alzheimer's disease. But despite dozens of trials no treatment has yet been found to halt or reverse the decline.
However data released by Stanford University last weekend suggested that infusions of young blood may help people with dementia to function. People with Alzheimer’s disease who received blood plasma from people aged between 18 and 30 were found to be able to dress and feed themselves more easily.