brainscanAlzheimer’s disease and other dementias are now, for the first time, the leading cause of death for England and Wales, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS’ figures showed that of the 529,655 deaths registered during 2015, dementia accounted for 61,686 (11.6%), ahead of ischaemic heart diseases (11.5%).

For males, ischaemic heart diseases were the leading cause of death accounting for 14.3% of all male deaths in 2015, compared with 14.8% in 2014. For females, the leading cause of death was dementia and Alzheimer disease accounting for 15.2% of all female deaths, up from 13.4% in 2014.

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “These figures once again call attention to the uncomfortable reality that currently, no-one survives a diagnosis of dementia.

“Some of the increase can be explained by a rise in diagnosis rates and a change in the way dementia is recorded on death certificates, offering a more accurate picture of the impact of dementia. With growing numbers of people living with dementia, we urgently need treatments that can stop or slow the diseases that drive this devastating condition.

“[This] report shows the potential for medical research and public policy to make a positive impact on the health of our nation. Thanks to better treatments and prevention programmes, deaths from many other serious conditions have been steadily dropping: now we must do the same for dementia. Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing, it’s caused by diseases that can be fought through research, and we must bring all our efforts to bear on what is now our greatest medical challenge.”