Dementia is biggest killer of women in UK
Dementia is the biggest cause of death for women in England and Wales official figures show.
Analysts say the rising numbers may be because doctors are becoming more aware of the disease and recording it on death certificates more frequently.
Coronary heart disease remains the leading cause of death in men. For males, dementia is the third most common cause of death.
The gradual wasting away of the brain in dementia cuts lives short. The condition can be recorded as the sole cause of death, but is frequently found as an underlying condition. Many people with dementia ultimately die from pneumonia- due to physical inactivity.
The data, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed more than half a million people died in England and Wales in 2013
Cancer is the leading killer when all subtypes of cancer are combined across both genders. Nearly one in three deaths last year was from some form of cancer.
The latest data confirms a dramatic shift in the causes of death in the past decade.
Between 2003 and 2013 the percentage of deaths from coronary heart disease, which includes heart attacks, fell to 16% of male deaths from 22%. In women the figure fell to 10% from 15%.
Improved care means people are more likely to survive heart attacks and more people take statins to prevent them in the first place.
Meanwhile, dementia rose to 6% of male deaths from 2% and to 12% of female deaths from 5%.
The latest data is the second consecutive year that dementia has been recorded as the leading cause of death for women.
The ONS report said: “Some of the rise over the last few decades may also be attributable to a better understanding of dementia. This means that doctors may be more likely to record dementia as the underlying cause of death.”