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Alzheimer's Disease Project

Executive Summary

The purpose of the Alzheimer's Disease Project is to put forth the idea that physical characteristics of place - geography and geology - are relevant in Alzheimer's disease, and to stimulate research in this area.

This webpage is in four sections:

 


US Death Rates due to Alzheimer’s Disease: Some Regional and Geologic Correlates

Wayne P. London MD, Alexander P. Gutterman MA, Susanna Hope Glendenning, Paul Eagle, Deborah M. O'Brien from the Brattleboro Research Institute, 139 Main St., Suite 706A, Brattleboro, VT 05301

Key words:  Alzheimer’s disease, death rates, regional, geography, geology, seismic.
    

Abstract

State-by-state death rates due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the US show regional patterns that are not readily explainable by social, cultural or racial factors but appear to correlate with geologic features.

The relevant geological factors that correlate with high death rates due to AD are (1) zones of seismic activity either from intraplate dynamics or active plate margins; higher death rates appear to correlate with subduction as opposed to strike-slip plate margins. (2) geographic zones with abundant felsic rocks containing minerals such as quartz and feldspar, some of which have conductive and piezoelectric properties.

The range in the state-by-state and the regional death rates is more than 3-fold, which is higher than most known risk factors for AD.

These preliminary findings are discussed in the context of the hypothesis of chromosomal missegregation in AD, and they have implications for understanding and preventing AD.

FULL PAPER


[Note:  Google Chrome users may need to use Internet Explorer or Firefox to view the maps below.]

Some County-by-County Analyses of Death Rates due to Alzheimer's Disease

Quote from our paper above:

"A more systematic study of death rates due to AD and geology also requires data of death rates within states that can be compared with more local geology, for example, by county or geographic area. A prime candidate for this more focused analysis is the state of Tennessee that has the 2nd highest death rate due to AD and is divided into three geographic and geologic regions – East (Blue Ridge Mountains and Tennessee Valley), Middle (the Cumberland Plateau) and West (Gulf Coastal Plain)."


Tennessee Study

Tennessee has the 2nd highest death rate due to AD in the US. It is seismically active with both the New Madrid Seismic zone in the northwest and the East Tennessee Seismic Zone in East Tennessee. Felsic minerals are found in the Blue Ridge Mountains of East Tennessee.

Consistent with the hypothesis of our paper, death rates due to AD in Tennessee correlate with geographic region and geology.  As shown in the following map:


  
The corresponding geology of Tennessee is shown in the next maps:


For key to geologic features, click here.

Thus, the higher death rates due to AD in Tennessee correlate with the felsic rocks in mountains and valleys of East Tennessee and with the East Tennessee Seismic Zone (shown on the map below).

It would appear that the intense seismic activity of the New Madrid Seismic Zone in northwest Tennessee is not affecting the relatively low death rate due to AD in west TN. This is presumably due to the lack of felsic rocks and the resulting piezoelectric effect that would transduce the seismic pressure into an electromagnetic field.

In this regard, this area of northwest TN of intense seismic activity but no felsic rocks mirrors the same two geologic features of Hawaii that has the second lowest death rate due to AD in the US.


Map source: http://www.ceri.memphis.edu/seismic/images/SE_epi.gif

Hamilton County, TN, (whose main city is Chattanooga) is located on the East Tennessee Seismic Zone.

Hamilton County (TN) Alzheimer’s disease death rate
Excerpts from the 2010 report by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies

Hamilton County (TN) Alzheimer’s disease death rate
Excerpts from the report by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, Dec. 2008

Health in Chattanooga Marked by Disparities
Chattanooga Times, Dec. 14, 2008

 

South Carolina Study

South Carolina has the 4th highest death rate due to AD in the US. It is seismically active due to the South Carolina Seismic Zone in the southeast central coastal area and it has felsic rocks in the Blue Ridge Mountain area in the northwest part of the state.

Although perhaps as not as clear-cut as Tennessee, the county-by-county death rates due to AD in South Carolina appear to correlate with the above two geologic features.

The county-by-county death rates due to AD in South Carolina are shown in the following map. Again, the counties with the highest third of death rates in the state are in red; those with the middle third of death rates in blue and those with the lowest third of death rates in yellow.

Consistent with the hypothesis of our paper:

Thus, in both Tennessee (2nd highest state) and in South Carolina (4th highest state) the death rates due to AD in county-by-county data appear to correlate with (a) the presence of felsic minerals in the Blue Ridge Mountains and with (b) seismic activity – the East Tennessee and South Carolina Seismic Zones.


Washington State Study

The state of Washington has the highest death rate due to AD in the country - nearly twice the national average. It also has the most active seismic subduction zone in the country - the Juan de Fuca subduction zone - and the presence of felsic minerals.

The county-by-county death rates due to AD in Washington State are shown in the following map. Again, the counties with the highest third of death rates in the state are in red; those with the middle third of death rates in blue and those with the lowest third of death rates in yellow.

Of the 13 counties having the highest death rates due to AD (in red), all but one are located in a north-south tier in the western part of the state close to the seismic subduction zone and where the felsic minerals occur (brown and tan and light-pink in the bedrock geology map). In contrast, most of the 13 counties having the lowest death rates (in yellow) cluster in the eastern part of the state particularly the southeastern area where the mafic rock basalt occurs (reddish-brown in the bedrock geology map).

The county-by-county data in both Tennessee and South Carolina also show high death rates due to AD associated with seismic activity and felsic minerals.

Washington State Alzheimer's Death Rate Per 100,000 People by County  Click Here for Printable Map
Parentheses Indicate County Rank of Alzheimer's Death Rate from Highest (1st) to Lowest (39th)
Source: CDC Data


(geologic map source)

 

New York State Study

New York State has the lowest death rate due to AD of all the 51 states. It is also seismically inactive. This suggests correlating AD death rates within the state with the presence of felsic (continental crust) minerals or mafic (oceanic crust) minerals.

The county-by-county death rates due to AD in New York State are shown in the following map. Again, the counties with the highest third of death rates in the state are in red; those with the middle third of death rates in blue and those with the lowest third of death rates in yellow.

The four gross features of the geology of New York State are (1) the grand sweep of the western state's classic Paleozoic section, (2) the gnarled ancient rocks of the northern mountains, (3) the north-south stripe of folded Appalachian strata across the easternmost state, and (4) the huge glacial sediment deposit of Long Island. The county-by-county death rates due to AD appear to correlate with some of the gross features of the state's geology.

Consistent with the hypothesis of our paper:

As shown in the diagram at the bottom, the county-by-county data when grouped by region suggest an increasing death rate due to AD from the coastal New York City/Long Island area (lowest)  into the Taconic and Adirondack mountain areas (highest).

The lowest death rates due to AD  - 9 or less -   are in the New York City/Long Island area. This very populous region has the lowest rates in New York State and probably in the nation - much lower than the national average of about 26. For comparison, rates in west-central Washington and East Tennessee are 5 - 10 times higher than in this New York City/Long Island region.

Moving away from the coast, the rates in the Hudson Valley region are slightly higher - 6 - 12, and even  higher in the Catskill region - 9 - 16.

Higher rates that approach or exceed the national average occur in several counties in the Capital-Saratoga region and in the areas of the Taconic and  Adirondack mountains.

 

For key to geologic features, click on a feature in the live map here.

      

 

New York State Alzheimer's Death Rate Per 100,000 People
in Selected Counties and Regions
 Click Here for Printable Map

Parentheses Indicate County Rank of Alzheimer's Death Rate
from Highest (1st) to Lowest (62nd).

Source: CDC Data


   

A brief summary of the county-by-county data in four states: Tennessee (2nd highest death rate due to AD in the US) and neighboring South Carolina (4th highest), Washington (highest) and New York (lowest):


A Comparison of Life Expectancy and Death Rates due to Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Diseases in the 11 states having the highest death rate due to AD and in New York (the lowest state) versus the US. (Parkinson's disease is another major neurological degenerative disorder.)

Ratio of the State Rate to the US Rate: State/US

State and
(rank)

Life Expectancy

Heart Disease

Cancer

Stroke

Parkinson's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease

Washington
(highest)

0.99

0.83

0.96

0.98

1.20

1.70

Tennessee
(2nd)

0.96

1.16

1.13

1.25

0.99

1.53

North Dakota
(3rd)

1.00

0.91

1.02

1.13

1.09

1.49

South Carolina
(4th)

0.96

1.00

1.07

1.19

1.02

1.40

Arizona
(5th)

0.99

0.82

0.86

0.79

1.22

1.40

Louisiana
(6th)

0.95

1.17

1.14

1.20

1.08

1.37

Alabama
(7th)

0.95

1.27

1.10

1.27

0.95

1.34

South Dakota
(8th)

0.99

0.87

0.94

0.97

1.18

1.30

Oregon
(9th)

1.00

0.80

1.00

1.10

1.35

1.29

Maine
(10th)

0.99

0.87

1.07

0.95

1.08

1.28

Idaho
(11th)

1.00

0.84

0.90

1.19

1.29

1.24

New York
(lowest)

0.99

1.16

0.93

0.68

0.63

0.40

The data for Washington (highest death rate due to AD), Tennessee (2nd highest), South Carolina (4th) and New York (lowest) are displayed in the following graph.

The conclusion is that in these states, the presumed geologic factors are having a significant effect on death rates due to AD, but not a significant effect on life expectancy or death rates due to heart disease, cancer, stroke or Parkinson's disease.