Dementia Risk Declines, As Education Increases

Dementia Risk Declines, As Education Increases

Dementia is declining according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. One reason for the improved outlook seems likely tied to an increase in education, according to researchers.  How does that translate to numbers?

“That’s well over a million people who don’t have dementia, who would have had it if the rates had stayed the same as 2000 rates,” says John Haaga, who directs the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging, which funded the study.

The JAMA Internal Medicine study used data gathered in two samples, one in 2000 and another in 2012, that each looked at more than 10,000 Americans who were 65 years old or older.  In the first sample, approximately 11.6 percent of them had some form of dementia. In the second sample, it had dropped to 8.8 percent.  

The average amount of education in the study population increased, while the incidence of dementia cases dropped. The average amount of education in 2000 was 11.8 years, which was just shy of the 12 years it usually takes to graduate from high school.  However, in 2012, the average amount of education was 12.7 years.

The downward trend has emerged despite something else the study shows which was a rise in the following three factors which tend to raise dementia risk by interfering with brain blood flow:

  • Diabetes;
  • High blood pressure; and
  • Obesity.  
  • Those with the most years of education had the lowest chances of developing dementia, according to the findings by a team from the University of Michigan. This may help explain the larger trend, because today’s seniors are more likely to have at least a high school diploma than those in the same age range a decade ago.

    “Our results, based on in-depth interviews with seniors and their caregivers, add to a growing body of evidence that this decline in dementia risk is a real phenomenon, and that the expected future growth in the burden of dementia may not be as extensive as once thought,” says lead author Kenneth Langa, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the U-M Medical School.

    For the complete study, go to:

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