Between 2004 and 2019, dementia (caused, among other things, by Alzheimer’s disease) gradually rose to become the leading cause of death in Belgium.
This is shown by new analyses by the Health Institute Sciensano. The rise of dementia is mainly due to the fact that deaths from cardiovascular diseases, historically by far the leading cause of death in Belgium, are falling year after year.
Sciensano analysed the death certificates collected by Statistics Agency Statbel, and classified all deaths according to 130 unique causes of death. The detailed analyses allow comparisons to be made about time, age, gender, and province. In 2019, the last year for which we were able to make estimates, coronary heart disease and dementia were the leading causes of death in Belgium.
Each of them was responsible for about 9% of all deaths. Stroke and lung cancer were in a shared third and fourth place, each accounting for about 7% of all deaths. This ranking is very different from that of 2004, where coronary heart disease and stroke still gave rise to 15% and 10% of all deaths, respectively, and dementia represented only a share of 5%.
“The gradual advance of dementia, but above all the sharp decline in the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, and recently also the limited decline in the number of deaths from lung cancer, are causing dementia to become the leading cause of death in Belgium,” says Brecht Devleesschauwer, epidemiologist at Sciensano.