Washington state has the highest mortality rate for Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S., according to data released this week by the National Vital Statistics System.
At 46.3 deaths per 100,000 people, the state’s death rate for the year 2010 far exceeded the national rate of 25.1 deaths per 100,000.
In all, 31 states exceeded the national rate. North Dakota ranked second with a rate of 37.2, followed by South Dakota (35.9) and Arizona (35.3).
Hawaii had the lowest rate of 10.3 followed by New York (11.3), and Nevada (14.2).
The rates were calculated using age-adjusted figures as risk of dying from Alzheimer’s increases dramatically with age. Researchers found those 85 and older were 50 times more likely to die from the disease than their counterparts between 65 and 74, and five times more likely to die than those between 75 and 84.
It was not clear why the rates varied significantly from state to state; however, the states with the highest rates were not those the U.S. Census Bureau found to have the oldest population — Maine and Vermont — nor the states with the highest percentage of senior citizens — Florida and West Virginia.
Alzheimer's mortality rate steadily rising
Researchers found Alzheimer’s mortality rate increased by 39 percent nationwide between 2000 and 2010, continuing the rate’s steady climb over the past 30 years. During the same decade, the death rates of cancer, heart disease and stroke each decreased by at least 30 percent.
Women and whites are at greater risk of death by Alzheimer’s, research found. Women are at 30 percent higher risk of dying from the illness. Whites are at 26 percent higher risk than blacks, and at 43 percent higher risk than Hispanics. Hispanic men and women were at lowest risk with group death rates of 16.6 and 19.5, respectively.
Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Researchers believe the disease, which damages and kills brain cells, is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. There is no known cure.