Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s top list of older adult death causes

Lois A. Bowers

Percent distribution of the 10 leading causes of death, 85+ age group: United States, 2017.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease were the three leading causes of death for those aged 85 or more years in 2017, according to a newly released report from the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data are based on a review of death certificates filed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The top 10 leading causes of death for those aged 85 or more were the same as in 2016, although differences in order existed after the top five, and percentages differed between years.

Heart disease and cancer accounted for 28.6% and 11.8% of the deaths, respectively, in 2017, according to the new report. Alzheimer’s disease was the cause of 9.2% of deaths, stroke was responsible for 7.3% of deaths, and chronic lower respiratory disease accounted for 5.2% of deaths.

Other causes of death in the 85+ group that were cited in the report: influenza and pneumonia (2.8%), unintentional injuries (2.8%), kidney disease (2%), diabetes (1.9%) and hypertension (1.7%).

For men and women aged 85 or more years, the top five causes of death matched the top five for the age group overall, although the percentages differed. For men, the No. 6 through 10 positions were: accidents, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, Parkinson’s and diabetes. For women, the No. 6 through 10 positions were: influenza and pneumonia, accidents, hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease.

The report contains overall causes of deaths as well as causes by race and Hispanic origin, sex and age.

Overall, for all deaths studied, the number of deaths due to eight leading causes increased “significantly” from 2016 to 2017, according to the CDC: Influenza and pneumonia by 8%, accidents by 5.3%, suicide by 4.9%, Alzheimer’s disease by 4.6%, diabetes by 4.4%, chronic lower respiratory disease by 3.6%, stroke by 3% and heart disease by 1.9%.


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