By Ella Pickover, Press Association Health Correspondent
Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are on the increase, new figures show.
Mortality statistics for England and Wales show that the conditions were the leading cause of death last year, accounting for more than one in eight of all deaths (12.7%).
Meanwhile, the overall number of deaths was the highest since 2003, with 533,253 registered in England and Wales in 2017.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that, with increases in both the size and age of the population, the number of deaths is expected to rise further.
A total of 67,641 deaths were attributed to dementia and Alzheimer’s last year, up from 62,948 the previous year.
Among women, the conditions accounted for 16.5% of deaths, compared with 15.6% in 2016.
With people living longer and surviving other illnesses, the number developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is increasing, the ONS said.
Meanwhile, a better understanding of dementia and improved diagnosis is also likely to have caused increased reporting of dementia on death certificates, it added.
The second leading cause of death was ischaemic heart diseases, accounting for just over one in 10 deaths (10.9%).
Chronic lower respiratory diseases, which affect the lungs, were the third leading cause of death, overtaking cerebrovascular diseases such as strokes and brain haemorrhages.
Campaigns such as the Fast campaign, which encourages people to watch out for facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems followed by “Time to call 999”, have been attributed to the long-term decline in cerebrovascular diseases.
ONS statistician Vasita Patel said: “Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease remained the leading cause of death in 2017 for the third consecutive year.
“It was responsible for more than one in eight of all registered deaths, an increase from the previous year.
“Ischaemic heart diseases, which includes coronary heart disease, remained the second leading cause of death in 2017.
“Chronic lower respiratory diseases, which affect the lungs, are now the third leading cause of death, overtaking cerebrovascular diseases, which held this position in 2016.
“This follows a long-term decline in deaths from cerebrovascular diseases, such as strokes and brain haemorrhages.
“Lung cancer has remained the fifth leading cause of death.”
Meanwhile, the figures also show that the proportion of youngsters who died by “suicide and injury or poisoning of undetermined intent” rose among both boys and girls aged five to 19.
Among boys the figure increased from 15.2% of deaths in 2016 to 16.2% in 2017. For girls the figure was up from 9.6% in 2016 to 13.3% in 2017.