When it comes to dementia statistics, the news is rarely good; the fact that we’re living longer and pretty much guarantees that the number of elderly people with dementia will likely increase in the coming years. Couple that with aging baby boomers, and the news looks pretty grim.
But that may be changing, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine published online December 12.
The article cites the result of two comparative studies, the Cognitive Functioning and Aging Survey, or CFAS I and CFAS II. Both surveys included samples of more than 7,500 adults aged 65 and older. One study looked at data from 1989-1994, the other from 2008-2011.
According to the results, dementia prevalence decreased between the first and second surveys. The first survey indicated that 8.3% of the participants had dementia; the second study showed dementia prevalence at 6.2% The author of the report suggests that higher education levels and greater economic prosperity, as well as more effective treatments of vascular disease are likely the reasons for the decrease.
Dementia, in and of itself is not a diagnosis, rather it is a group of symptoms that accompany a number of diseases, such as vascular disease (stroke), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. In other words, it’s a syndrome characterized by cognitive decline. In fact, the NJM article states that most dementia patients have a combination of ailments that result in cognition impairment.
This indeed is good news. But the author cautiously reminds us that there is one thing that could reverse this decrease in dementia risk: the obesity and diabetes rates among younger people, both of which have been linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s and vascular disease.
In fact, Type 2 diabetes used to be referred to as adult onset diabetes, because it rarely occurred in adults under 45; however, the increased obesity rate among children and young adults has changed this particular demographic.