Since it is so rare to hear good news regarding dementia, the results of two studies conducted in Great Britain and Denmark offer some hope. The bottom line is that dementia rates have dropped dramatically in those nations, which researchers are attributing to the elderly being more educated and more careful about their health.
The New York Times Wednesday reported on the studies, saying their results “soften alarms sounded by advocacy groups and public officials who have forecast a rapid rise in the number of people with dementia, as well as the costs of caring for them.”
Although the study results are upbeat, I don’t think that we should be lulled into a potentially false sense of security. There are still real reasons to fear that dementia will strain our health care system as the baby boomer generation ages.
Anyway, one of the new studies found that the dementia rate among those 65 and older in England and Wales have dropped 25 percent during the past 20 years, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent, The Times reported.
In the other study, done in Denmark, elderly in their 90s given a test of their mental abilities in 2010 posted much, much better scores than those in their 90s who did the test a decade ago, according to The Times.
The newspaper said the news confirmed what some medical experts have theorized, namely that dementia rates would decline as the elderly population became better educated and more health-conscious. The idea is that the more educated take better care of themselves, in terms of controlling their blood pressure and cholesterol, for example.
Since cardiovascular issues, such as ministrokes, can lead to brain damage and dementia, being in good health can ward off cognitive declines, according to The Times.
Recently the RAND Corp. projected that the number of people with dementia would double over the next 30 years as boomers age in the United States. But that forecast was predicated on current dementia rates staying the same. One of the RAND researchers told The Times that his dementia outlook could be wrong, and too pessimistic, if the drop in dementia rates in Europe also happens in the U.S.
However, I think we should still lead the charge in research on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and find cures.