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It’s an awkward question, but one which almost everyone wants to ask if they or a loved one have had a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. How long do they have left?
Alzheimer’s is a leading cause of death in older people. It’s estimated that there are 5 million sufferers in America at any one time. Research has been going on for decades, but there’s still no cure.
So how long do people with Alzheimer’s live? Patients’ and families’ first questions are often what to expect regarding the progression of symptoms and length of life.
There have been few long-term studies and everyone’s journey is different. But doctors are learning more about how the disease progresses and there are some useful statistics to help people prepare themselves. Read on to find out more.
The Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is a slowly progressive disease that breaks down and destroys brain cells. This initially affects memory, then leads to a decline in mental and physical capabilities.
For some patients, the disease progresses slowly and leaves mental function largely unaffected for several years. For others, the progress more aggressive and their functionality deteriorates fast.
In the final stages, disruption to daily life is severe and sufferers usually require full-time care. So it’s natural that a person with Alzheimer’s and their family members will want to know what to expect, so that they can plan for the future.
How Long Do People With Alzheimer’s Live?
The best answer to this question is – it varies. But people naturally want statistics. Studies have shown the average to be 8-12 years, but life expectancy following diagnosis can be as short as 3 years, or as long as 20 years.
One American study showed people living between one and 26 years after first spotting symptoms – the variation is enormous.
Doctors always recommend that someone with Alzheimer’s disease should focus on the quality of life and making the most of the time left, rather than fixating on the numbers about life expectancy.
But there are some factors that can affect how long people with Alzheimer’s live after diagnosis.
Factors Affecting Life Expectancy After Diagnosis
1. Age at diagnosis – a person diagnosed at 65 years old can expect to live for a further 9 years on average, but a person diagnosed at 90 can only expect another 3 years of life.
2. Gender – men live approximately 4.2 years after diagnosis, whereas women live for longer, on average 5.2 years after being diagnosed.
3. Other health problems – people who also have conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes are likely to have a shorter life expectancy than people who are generally fit and healthy.
Improving Life Expectancy for Someone with Alzheimer’s
You should ask your doctor about the range of Alzheimer’s treatment available. It won’t cure the disease but can slow progression and treat symptoms.
Lifestyle changes, including diet, sleep, and exercise, can also help to improve symptoms and may also result in increased life expectancy.
Knowing the answer to that tricky question, how long do people with Alzheimer’s live, is actually comforting to patients and families alike. It helps them to become more informed about the disease and empowered to plan for the future and make the best of the remaining years.