According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, more Americans are dying after their 100th birthday.
The report, Mortality Among Centenarians in the United States, 2000–2014, found that the number of American centenarians, or people aged at least 100, spiked by more than 43.6% from 2000 (50,281) to 2014 (72,197).
"Public health efforts and modern medicine over the last two centuries that have contributed to this," Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at Northwell Health, told CBS News. "In the 1900s, we had sanitation and clean water efforts that really helped. Prevention of maternal death and child maternal injuries and accidents, too. The development of vaccinations and antibiotics in that century really decreased mortality."
According to the CDC, not only are more Americans turning 100, but more centenarians are living longer, as signified by the falling mortality rate among the demographic. Notably, most centenarians—84% in 2014—are women.
The CDC also looked at how the cause of death among centenarians has changed from 2000 to 2014.
For all centenarians, the top five causes of death in 2000 were heart disease, stroke, influenza and pneumonia, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. In 2014, heart disease was still the leading cause of death, but Alzheimer’s disease became the second leading cause, followed by stroke, cancer, and influenza and pneumonia.
The causes of death differed also for men and women. In 2014, centenarian women most often died of heart disease, and then (respectively) Alzheimer's disease, stroke, influenza, pneumonia, and cancer. Among men, the top cause of death in 2014 was also heart disease, followed by cancer, influenza, pneumonia, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease.
Geriatrics professor Holly Prigerson told told LiveScience why Alzheimer's disease is so dangerous to centenarians: "People who are physically fit enough to survive over 100 years ultimately succumb to diseases afflicting the mind and cognitive dysfunction… in other words, it appears that their minds give out before their bodies do."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.