Study Shows Promise In Reducing Risks Of Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia
For many years there have been intense efforts made to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, two heart breaking and deadly conditions most everyone fears as they age. And though there has been some great progress made in battling these diseases, to date there is no cure. It has been a given in the scientific and medical communities that as the population ages and the fact that people are living longer, it is only logical that there would be a proportional increase in these two dreaded diseases due to those two factors alone. However, recent findings are telling researchers that this expected trend is not the case.
A recent study conducted by Claudia Satizabal, instructor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, which was published February 10th in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that the incidence of dementia is lessening, and this is not the only study to indicate as such. The study shows that the risks for getting Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are waning over the years for people who have more education and are adapting healthy heart practices. This suggests that individuals may have some semblance of control over their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as they get older.
The Satizabal study researchers utilized the records from the study of a group of 5,205 volunteer residents, age sixty and above, of Framingham, Massachusetts, called the Framingham Heart Study which closely monitored the health of the 5,205 study subjects over a thirty year period. This study included looking into the participants health habits and health status for risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke such as; hypertension (high blood pressure), smoking, and obesity. The study revealed that people who had better health habits had better outcomes for cardiovascular health (normal blood pressure) and consequentially were less apt for developing dementia.
Additionally, the authors of the study found that there was a twenty percent decline in dementia per decade, but this only occurred in study subjects who had at least a minimum of a high school level of education. There also was a less statistically significant decline in people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; however the lack of significance could be because fewer people developed Alzheimer’s (that would affect the outcome of the study results).
Because the Framingham Heart Study showed a definitive decline in the incidence of dementia over the period of thirty years under scientific scrutiny, but the factors that contributed to these results were not completely identified, further studies are underway to ascertain more definitive results. However researchers do believe we can take away two things from the study, education level has significance in that a more educated individual may be practicing better coronary health habits through learned information and seeing a doctor on a more regular basis than a less educated person.
The socioeconomic and thus educational factors affecting health outcomes are typical; results are poorer healthcare and health management in the underprivileged of populations, lesser education often results in declines in general nutrition and self health management due to lack of access to healthcare and thus information.
According to the study’s author, Claudia Satizabal, “That’s telling us that perhaps better management of cardiovascular disease could potentially help in the reduction of dementia.” Just to clarify, the results from the Framingham Study and that of Claudia Satizabal indicate a steady decline in dementia, even though there is a rise in the number of elderly people in the world in general, and the increase in age of the Framingham participants still indicated the incidence of dementia is declining.
For further confirmation of these conclusions you can also look to the data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study. This study was funded by the Social Security Administration and the National Institute on Aging; it is a large study that was launched in 1992 of 20,000 nationally representative people, age fifty and above living in the United States, and which paints a broad portrait of America’s aging population, providing the unique opportunity of studying not only physical and mental health, as well as numerous other factors that can have an affect on health outcomes i.e. financial situations, insurance coverage, family support systems, work history and status, retirement planning and the like of an aging generation (baby boomers) begin to turn 65 in 2011. The data from this very broad study indicates the findings are much the same as the Framingham Study, that dementia is declining in the aforementioned populace.
And while the number of people afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may increase simply by the increasing number of elderly people living, the rate of the current and future elderly afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will continue to decline in the foreseeable future as long as education and heart healthy behavior are around.