Dementia is a terrifying syndrome that affects millions of American every year. Impairment of core mental faculties makes daily life a nightmare and symptoms can progress to the point where individuals can no longer live without assistance 24 hours a day. But an interesting new dementia study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that the rates of dementia (though perhaps not the risk) is decreasing dramatically in the United States.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is the term doctors use to encompass a wide-ranging set of symptoms all of which are visible evidence of some sort of mental decline. These include memory loss, difficulty thinking or understanding, the inability to perform routine tasks, and sometimes difficulty using language.
While many people associate dementia with Alzheimer’s Disease, individuals can develop dementia without ever having Alzheimer’s and vice versa.
What’s the Good News About this Dementia Study?
Data collected during the long-running Framingham Heart Study has uncovered a shocking change in the rates of diagnosis of new dementia cases. In fact, the data shows that Dementia rates decreased 44% over the last 30 years here in The United States. That’s a tremendous victory. But there’s a catch. Those decreased rates were only observed in people with higher education—specifically a high school diploma or higher.
While these results seem to point to a sociological aspect to better health later in life, the authors of the study suggest that other physical improvements are probably the root cause.
What’s Behind the Decrease in Dementia Diagnoses?
The data the authors of the study used was collected from over 5,000 study participants over the last 40 years. The researchers broke the data into specific timeframes (which they called epochs). When they compared these epochs to each other they were shocked to find that epochs closer to today’s date exhibited much lower rates of a number of common health issues including dementia.
The authors of the dementia study speculate that because the level of education (mandatory or otherwise) has increased in the United States over the past four decades, people are more able to understand the relationship between good behaviors and long term health. In short, smarter people take better care of themselves.
What Does this Mean for Future Dementia Patients?
It has been previously estimated that just over 7 million people will be affected by dementia by 2025. That’s a 40% increase over the number of diagnosed cases today. However, given this new data, it’s likely that that predicted figure will be much smaller.
“We are expecting an explosion of dementia over the next 50 years, with devastating consequences both on a personal level and on a society level because our population is aging,” says Dr. Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology at Boston University and the Framingham Heart Study’s senior investigator. “If we can, however, bend the arc of risk so that people get it later, closer to the natural lifespan, then we will be reducing the individual as well as the societal burden of dementia.”
Indeed, the authors of the dementia study conclude that if an increase in general education can lead to such a significant change that a targeted approach could result in even bigger gains against this terrifying syndrome.
Second Family Home Care provides caring non-medical in-home care to individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and other age or ability related deficiencies. We can help you or a loved one remain comfortably at home for as long as possible. Contact us to schedule a consultation. Call (972) 247-0700 today.