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The NSPA Blog

Dementia Rates Are Dropping-Why Is This Happening?

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Posted on December 7th, 2016 by Teri Dreher, under Alzheimer's and Dementia

In recent years, the prevalence of dementia has fallen in the United States. Most likely experts believe it’s because of Americans’ raising educational levels and better heart health. This good news was reported in a new study recently published in Jama Internal Medicine.

The co-author of this study Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan said: “Even without a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a new medication, there are things that we can do socially and medically and behaviorally that can significantly reduce the risk.”

Currently, five million Americans suffer from dementia, a number that is expected to triple by 2050 because people will be living longer. Dementia is a general term for a loss of memory that is severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Still, Langa points out: “Alzheimer’s is going to remain the public health crisis of our time, even with modestly reduced rates.”

The new research confirms the results of several other studies. The average age of participants in the Health and Retirement Study was 75. The study began in 1992 and focused on people older than 50 years of age. Data was collected every two years. Researchers conducted detailed interviews with the participants about their health, income, cognitive ability and life circumstances.

Right now, researchers can’t definitively explain why dementia rates are decreasing. Langa believes it could be because doctors are helping patients control high blood pressure and diabetes, which can boost the risk of age-related memory problems. Both high blood pressure and diabetes increase the risk of strokes, which kill brain cells, increasing the risk of vascular dementia.

The study’s authors also determined that senior citizens are better educated today than even half a generation ago. This is significant because other studies have found a strong link between higher educational levels and lower risk of disease, including dementia. Langa points out that people with more education tend to smoke less, and exercise more. In addition, they may have more stimulating jobs and hobbies that help exercise their brains.

What do you do to exercise your brain to keep it sharp? Please share your brain tips with our readers.

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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