Friday, 2 December 2016
The Silent Killer
As Andrew Sachs loses his four-year battle with vascular dementia, this is how the disease can turn deadly - from pneumonia to heart disease and strokes, the chronic brain condition causes a host of deadly illnesses
Dementia is the Silent Killer.
It is a disease that’s primarily known for causing memory loss and confusion, rather than death.
But with the unexpected passing of the Actor Andrew Sachs (the hapless Spanish waiter, Manuel in British Sitcom Fawlty Towers) this will no doubt bring the hidden implications of Dementia into sharp focus for the thousands of families affected.
The critically-acclaimed TV star passed away in his home, last week, after a secret, four-year battle with the chronic brain disease, which is currently thought to affect 850,000 people across the country.
In fact, the Office for National Statistics recently reported that dementia has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales.
During 2015, 61,686 out of 529,655 deaths registered in England and Wales were attributable to the condition. This accounted for nearly 12 per cent of all registered deaths.
Yet, while there’s often no cause of death beyond an initial dementia diagnosis, there’s scant awareness of the other, little-known risks to a patient’s body – and, ultimately, what can kill them.
So what are the associated health concerns with dementia? And what else do we need to know about the fatal condition?
· The biggest cause of death in dementia sufferers is pneumonia, mainly because the body becomes weak in the presence of infection
· Blood clots on the lung, heart disease and strokes are also a considerable risk. In part, this is because dementia sufferers often lose their mobility as the disease progresses, which causes circulatory problems.
· Because dementia attacks the brain – which controls primary organs such as the heart, as well our memories – blood clots, heart disease and strokes are also a considerable risk.
· In part, this is because dementia sufferers often lose their mobility as the disease progresses, which causes circulatory problems
Dementia is not commonly considered a terminal disease unlike cancer, but – because it will eventually cause the body to shut down over many years – the end result if ultimately the same.
Typically, the average life expectancy for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s is ten years from diagnosis, but this depends on physical health at the time of detection.
Although it’s not clear what Sachs’ official cause of death was, the leading trigger in many patients is – perhaps surprisingly – pneumonia.
In fact, according to the Alzheimers Society, it’s the main cause of mortality in up to two-thirds of people with the life-shortening illness.
In addition to this, side-effects from medications can also contribute, which helps make circulatory system diseases accounts for the second-biggest cause of death.
Other, less-common causes result from a person’s increasing fragility – meaning that a traumatic fall or common genitourinary infection can be enough to overwhelm the body, even though they would ordinarily be able to recover from such physical stress.
Digestive system disease and cancers are also frequently listed on death certificates, especially as age also plays a key role as dementia progresses.
However, in many cases, no specific cause of death is found beyond dementia or simply old age.