Study Reports Dementia Reduction But Let's be Cautious
Dementia is not a disease but the term describes a set of symptoms. Alzheimer’s is one type. These symptoms can include memory loss, mood changes, problems with communication and reasoning and difficulties with day to day activities.
A Swedish study published in April in the journal Neurology shows that the risk of developing dementia may have declined over the past 20 years. Three thousand people over the age of 75 living in Stockholm participated in the ongoing study that began in 1987. The reduction results are felt to be the result of better preventative measures and better treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Dementia caused by cardiovascular disease is known as vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. It is caused by problems in blood supply to the brain. By treating cardiac and vascular illnesses and conditions that cause damage to the brain, dementia may be prevented, lessened, and sometimes reversed.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for up to two thirds of case of dementia in the U.S. Unlike vascular dementia we do not know what precisely causes Alzheimer’s. There appears to be no single factor, but it is thought likely that it is a combination of factors that include age, genetic inheritance, environmental factors, lifestyle and our overall general health.
Recently doctors have begun to investigate mild cognitive impairment (MCI) when an individual has difficulty remembering things or thinking clearly but the symptoms are not severe enough to lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Research seems to indicate that individuals with MCI have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (a conversion rate from MCI to Alzheimer's of about 10-20 percent each year).
While any reduction in dementia is a very positive thing we do have to be careful when we see headlines from research such as the Swedish study, as it can be misinterpreted. As society continues to offer better and more sophisticated health care the numbers of old people increase. It follows that an increase in the numbers of older people will result in more cases of dementia unless more effective treatments for the many different causes of dementia are found.
Karolinski Institutet (1970, January 1). Risk of dementia declined over past 20 years. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 5, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2013/04/130419075905.htm
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC.