November 22, 2016

LEARN, AND DON'T SMOKE:

U.S. Dementia Rates Are Dropping Even as Population Ages (GINA KOLATA, NOV. 21, 2016, NY Times)

"The dementia rate is not immutable," said Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging. "It can change."

And that "is very good news," said John Haaga, director of the institute's division of behavioral and social research. It means, he said, that "roughly a million and a half people aged 65 and older who do not have dementia now would have had it if the rate in 2000 had been in place."

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer's Association, said the group had been encouraged by some of the previous research showing a decline but had also been "a little bit nervous" about drawing conclusions because the populations in the earlier studies were so homogeneous.

Now, he said of the new data, "here is a nationally representative study. It's wonderful news." [...]


Then there is the education question. On average, older Americans in 2012 had one more year of schooling than older Americans in 2000. And years of education were associated with decreased dementia risk in this study, as in many others.

It is still not clear exactly why education would reduce the risk of dementia. There is the cognitive reserve hypothesis: that education changes developing brains in a good way, making them more resistant to dementia, and that people with more education have brains that are better able to compensate for dementia damage.

But education also is linked to more wealth. People with more education often live in environments that differ from those of people who have less schooling, and they tend to have better health over all. They also are less likely to smoke.


Posted by at November 22, 2016 4:28 PM

  

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