Alzheimer's surpasses flu, diabetes, as cause of death for elderly

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Alzheimer's now kills more Americans 65 and older than the flu or diabetes, according to a new federal report.

Age-adjusted death rates for Alzheimer's were about 168 deaths per 100,000 people in 2003, while those for influenza/pneumonia were 155 deaths per 100,000. The diabetes rate was 151 deaths per 100,000. The National Institute on Aging of the U.S. National Institutes of Health issued the report.

Alzheimer's was the fifth most common cause of death in 2003 for this population, ranking only behind (in order) heart disease, malignant neoplasms, cerebrovascular disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases. More thorough reporting of the disease on death certificates could account for the rise in Alzheimer's deaths, officials said.