Dementia could become Australia's leading cause of death

DEMENTIA death rates in Australia are continuing to rise as our population ages according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics' Causes of Death Report.

While dementia remains the second leading cause of death in Australia, the ABS expects dementia to overtake heart disease to become the leading cause of death in a few years, if current trends continue.

Alzheimer's Australia CEO Maree McCabe said as Australians adopt healthier lifestyle choices the incidence of some chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke have been declining, however the rates of dementia continue to rise.

"The greatest risk factor for dementia is age. While it is not a normal part of ageing, the fact remains that the risk of dementia does increase with age," Ms McCabe said.

"To appropriately support and care for the number of people predicted to be living with dementia in the future we must act now to ensure there is a robust, national and fully-funded plan in place as the number of people aged over 80 are expected to double in the next 20 years."

There are 353,800 Australians living with dementia and that figure is expected to increase to almost 900,000 by 2050. Around 25,000 Australians are living with younger onset dementia (a diagnosis under the age of 65), one in ten people aged over 65 and one in three people aged over 85 have dementia.

Alzheimer's Australia has been calling for a national, fully funded approach to tackle the dementia challenge for some time.

These increasing dementia death rate figures, while startling, are all the more reason why we need to take immediate action by:

  • Implementing a national dementia strategy, with measurable outcomes, as a long-term approach to developing better supports for people with dementia
  • Raising awareness of dementia risk reduction programs such as Your Brain Matters to improve brain health as we age
  • Encouraging Australians to learn more about dementia and the ways in which they can better support those living with the condition and their families in the community

"The Federal Government elevated dementia to be a National Health Priority, it continues to be the second leading cause of death in this country, yet we still don't have a National Dementia Strategy to tackle this condition, which affects seven in 10 Australians," Ms McCabe said.

"We can't ignore figures like these, the time to act is now."

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