As part of our commitment to helping educate caregivers in Illinois and Missouri, we pay close attention to Alzheimer’s research and treatment trials. Two newer studies that we have been following offer hope that dementia rates are dropping in some developed countries.
Dr. Carol Brayne’s Study
Dr. Carol Brayne of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, first study tested 7,635 people chosen randomly between 1984 and 1994. They were at least 65 years of age and were from three geographic areas. Researchers then repeated the same testing between 2008 and 2011 with another similar group chosen randomly. What they found was that dementia rates for those aged 65 and older have dropped by 25% in England and Wales. The rate of dementia went from 8.3% to 6.2%.
Dr. Kaare Christensen’s Study
A separate study by Dr. Kaare Christensen of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense showed similar results. These researchers tested 2,262 people who were born in 1905 and lived in Denmark. Participants were 93 years old at the time of testing. A second group of 1,584 participants were tested who were born in 1915 and were 95 at the time of testing. One test was done in 1998 and another in 2010. Both groups were tested for physical strength and robustness, as well as given the standard dementia screening, a mini-mental exam and a series of cognitive tests. This study showed people in their nineties who were tested in 2010 had substantially better results than those tested in 1998. The percentage of participants who scored at the severely impaired rate dropped from 22% to 17%, while the number of participants who scored at the highest levels doubled.
As with almost any clinical trial or study, there are detractors. Several researchers have declined to accept these two studies as indicative of a trend. There is also uncertainty as to whether or not this trend would hold up in the United States. Especially given the rise in obesity rates across the U.S.
On the whole, however, experts believe these two studies confirm the role education and a healthy lifestyle can play in decreasing the risk of dementia. People with a higher level of education are more likely to control both blood pressure and cholesterol. When these cardiovascular risks are controlled, the rates of dementia seem to decline.