|Professor Kim Ki-woong|
Researchers at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH) have proved for the first time in Korea that elderly patients who have dementia have approximately three times higher fatality rates than those with normal cognition.
In the U.S., Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative brain disease that causes dementia, is the leading cause of death among seniors. Also, various studies have proved dementia raises the mortality risk of seniors by 1.7 to 6.3 times.
Until now, however, there have been no reports on the effects of dementia and its relationship with the death of elderly in Korea. Previous studies were limited to the pre-dementia stage, such as mild cognitive impairment, possibly understating the risk of dementia-related death.
The team, led by Professor Kim Ki-woong of the department of mental health at the hospital, analyzed 6,752 elderly Koreans aged 60 or older from 2010 to 2015 and assessed the risk of death from dementia.
Researchers conducted an initial baseline assessment to identify the presence of dementia in the subjects from 2010 to 2012 and followed up on the patients for two years. By the end of December 2015, the team had confirmed all deaths occurred and assessed the risk of death from dementia.
The researchers classified subjects into three groups -- normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia-- to understand the relationship between the risk of dementia and the risk of death. The baseline assessment showed 334 out of a total of 6,752 older adults had dementia, 4,544 with normal cognitive functioning, and 1,874 with mild cognitive impairment.
As a result, the analysis showed that patients diagnosed with dementia had 2.7 times higher risk of death compared to the other two groups.
The follow-up evaluation found that an additional 95 with normal or mild cognitive impairment developed dementia. The new subject group showed an increased risk of death by about 8.4 times.
“The results of this study show that in Korea, dementia can increase the risk of death of elderly people by nearly three times,” Professor Kim said. “Especially since newly diagnosed patients with dementia within two years have a higher risk of death, there needs to be a periodic evaluation and proper management of their health condition.”
The results of the research were published in the recent online edition of Aging and Disease.
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