Health

Mind-Robbing Dementia Is on the Decline

And the more education you have, the less likely you'll experience cognitive impairment

Yes, our population is getting older — but fewer aging adults have to worry about dementia, according to a new study from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 10,000 people who were 65 years and older in the years 2000 and 2012. The percentage of people struggling with dementia decreased by nearly 3 percent during those years.

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The number of people suffering from dementia will likely triple by 2050 — but that’s still a smaller proportion of the population than in earlier decades. One particular study in Massachusetts showed that dementia diagnoses decreased by as much as 20 percent over the last 30 years.

Dementia includes any disease that causes cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and vascular dementia. Symptoms include mood shifts, personality changes, memory loss, impaired communication, and depression.

At first glance, the finding of this study seem to contradict other studies citing the prevalence of dementia in older demographics. “This is a prevalence study that looks at the percentage in the population and the rate at which people get dementia. There are more people with dementia because there are more older people than there have been in the past. This really doesn’t contradict any other epidemiological studies,” a spokesperson for the National Institute on Aging told LifeZette.

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Researchers have not pinpointed the cause for the diminishing numbers of dementia patients. The decline in cognitive impairment doesn’t take into account the increasing number of cardiovascular diseases. It’s possible that patients who might have been at risk for dementia are dying from other causes instead.

The study also found a connection between the amount of education and the likelihood of developing dementia. The more years someone spent in school — the less likely he or she is to experience cognitive impairment later.

The goal now, researchers say, is to understand the reasons that contribute to the decline. As of now, Alzheimer’s remains the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. One in three seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Thankfully, studies like this show that there could be better things on the horizon for an aging population.

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