The incurable condition, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form, claimed the lives of 62,948 people in England and Wales last year – 12 per cent of all deaths.
New statistics show the brain wasting diseases killed 41,747 women and 21,201 men.
Dementia is caused by diseases that result in the loss of brain cells, which impair mental function. Telltale symptoms include memory loss, confused thinking and difficulties with speech and problem-solving.
Alzheimer’s usually starts with forgetfulness and can progress to complete loss of independence. In some cases people spend their last years bed-bound and mute.
Better diagnosis and an ageing population are blamed for the rise in recorded dementia deaths, with experts saying the cruel condition remains one of the greatest health crises of our time.
Dementia STILL the leading cause of death in England and Wales, research shows
It’s a further wake-up call that the UK is woefully underprepared to cope with the scale of the challenge
Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The frightening figures further reinforce that dementia is one of society’s most burning injustices and defeating it must be a priority.
“As well as being a leading cause of death, research has also shown that dementia is one of the key reasons for life expectancy increases slowing. It’s clear to see the overwhelming impact the condition is having across the UK.
“Dementia doesn’t just devastate the lives of people with the condition, it tears families apart and leaves a tail of destruction in its path, but this outlook can be changed through research.
“What makes dementia one of the greatest medical challenges of modern society is the fact that we still lack a life-changing treatment to offer those affected.”
Alzheimer’s Society head of policy Nicola O’Brien said: “It’s a further wake-up call that the UK is woefully underprepared to cope with the scale of the challenge.
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“Dementia is both a terminal illness, and a condition that people can live with for many years, but our health and social care system is not in a position to cope.
“As a result we know thousands and thousands of people with dementia aren’t getting access to the right care and support to allow them to live well, and to die well.”
Overall, 525,048 deaths were registered in 2016. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show heart diseases remain the second leading cause of death in England and Wales, accounting for 13.7 per cent of all male deaths.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are the leading cause of female deaths, accounting for 15.6 per cent of those registered last year.
When all forms of cancer are grouped together the disease is the most common cause of death overall, accounting for 28.5 per cent of all those registered. Lung cancer is the most common.
New statistics show the brain wasting diseases killed 41,747 women and 21,201 men
Figures show there was a 4.2 per cent decrease in the proportion of deaths to suicide for those aged between 20 and 34 but it remains the leading cause of death for men and women, accounting for a fifth of those registered.
Suicide remains the leading cause of death for men aged between 35 and 49 but for women breast cancer is the biggest killer. Heart diseases killed the most men aged between 65 and 79 while lung cancer claimed the lives of the most women in this age range.
Across the UK there are now 850,000 people living with dementia with forecasts showing that by 2050 there will be two million people living with the condition.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of death for both men and women aged 80 and over.
Overall, 525,048 deaths were registered in 2016
Separate figures published show that in August just 82.6 per cent of NHS patients in England started cancer treatment within two months of being urgently referred by their GP against a target of 85 per cent.
So far this year more than 18,000 people have waited more than two months, including around 7,000 people who have waited for more than three months. The 62-day target has been missed for 20 months in a row.
Moira Fraser, of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It is disappointing to see targets for patients starting cancer treatment have not been met again.
“When you’re urgently referred by your GP with suspected cancer, you want to know that you’re moving through the health system as quickly as possible. Waiting for treatment to start is often an incredibly unsettling and difficult time for patients.”