Is the risk of dementia receding for the educated?

A new study, carried out by the New England Journal of Medicine, has found for some people the risk of getting dementia has been decreasing. Of all the factors affecting people’s likelihood of getting the disease, education, it’s thought, could be the key.

A group of 5,000 people from the area of Framingham, Massachusetts were monitored for the study.

Those with at least a high school diploma were found to be less at risk than those without. Those in this group also boasted better cardiovascular health.

Researchers say the study, conducted over a period of around four decades, reveals there are things people can do to help reduce their overall risk of getting dementia.

Improvement in rates of dementia was linked to better cardiovascular health and better levels of cholesterol. In short, people with a better, more healthy lifestyle, seem to be less prone to getting Alzheimer’s.

Current projections in the US suggest the cost for dementia care could double by the year 2040. The unprecedented health and longevity of the baby boomer generation has been viewed by many as a ticking time bomb in terms of care for the elderly.

This study, however, found new cases of dementia in the group studied were being reduced by some 20% each year.

Sadly, it seems scientists cannot be sure of any firm conclusions at this stage. The data set was described as relatively small – involving only 5,000 residents from one northeastern town. The people who took part in the study were described as “overwhelmingly” of European ancestry.

A different health study, which was released on Wednesday, found African Americans were more likely to get dementia as opposed to Asian-Americans, White Americans and Latinos.

However, reported Dr Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, pointed that the rate of dementia is “going down” and that “we might have to rethink” our disease rate estimates for the future.

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