An article in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine is doing something few pieces have done in recent years: showing a possible positive trend in Alzheimer's Disease.
According to researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School, five recent studies suggest that dementia is actually decreasing - this despite an aging population putting more people at risk - because of education and lifestyle changes.
"The growing number of older adults in the U.S. and around the world means we will undoubtedly see a signficant growth in the number of people with dementia; however, the good news is they appear to be living longer without experiencing it," said Dr. Kenneth Langa, a Michigan professor and research investigator at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.
Lange, along with fellow authors and medical doctors Eric B. Larson and Kristine Yaffe, concluded that advice on how to maintain a brain healthy lifestyle may start to pay off. They cite two main factors for the possible decrease in dementia cases.
The first is that Baby Boomers tend to be better educated than their parents, many of whom had plans of finishing high school or college dashed during and after the Great Depression and subsequent wars. The second is more awareness of heart disease and cardiovascular health, which has been linked to types of dementia. By eating a more heart-friendly diet and exercising regularly, people are not only staving off Type II diabetes and high blood pressure but, apparently, also dementia.
"We are seeing a positive trend that suggested that improving our physical and menthal health go hand in hand with fighting off this devastaing condition," Langa said in a prepared statement.
Some other factors culled from various studies that seemed to reduce the risk of dementia:
--early and ongoing education
--educated parents (especially an educated mother)
--maintaining social activities
--professional treatment for depression
"Recent attention and resources have been directed at identifying preclinical dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease, and at preventive-drug trials that enroll the very few persons who are at extremely high risk for the disease, such as those with dominantly inherited mutations (which account for <1 according="" article.="" cases="" nejm="" of="" p="" the="" to="">
"Although this strategy is important for the development of effective treatments, the recent studies ... illustrate the potential for deriving widespread public health benefits from such lifestyle interventions as improving educational opportunities in both early and later life, reducing vascular risk factors, and promoting greater physical activity. These studies also remind us that dementia is a syndrome — a complex of symptoms with multiple causes — making it similar to most late-life chronic diseases. In fact, population-based studies have convincingly demonstrated that the vast majority of dementia cases, especially those occurring very late in life, tend to involve a mixture of Alzheimer's disease, vascular disease, and other degenerative factors."1>