New Study Highlights Dementia Risks for the Well-Educated

  • It's pretty much what I expected. I responded to one study that showed that people with less education were more likely to get Alzheimer's disease, when a study came out that said that the more education you have, the quicker you'll lose your memory when you do get dementia.


    The American Academy of Neurology has sent out a press release titled "Educated people who develop dementia lose memory at faster rate." The study has shown that "Higher levels of education delay the onset of dementia, but once it begins, the accelerated memory loss is more rapid in people with more education...Our study showed that a person with 16 years of formal education would experience a rate of memory decline that is 50 percent faster than someone with just four years of education."

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    So what do any of these studies tell us? Are they of any use?


    This is my opinion, only. Like studies that show some medications lower cholesterol but "have not been proven to prevent heart attacks," studies are just that - studies, with less than concrete or effective conclusions. No one study applies to everyone and studies will continue to prove and disprove findings as research is being done.


    It's confusing, frustrating and occasionally maddening to have all of this seemingly conflicting research flying at us. However, research is what will, in the end, get us to a treatment, a cure and eventually, the prevention of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.


    Does this study mean that if we have more or less education we will or won't get dementia? Or, if we have education, we'll decline faster? Or, that we should even worry about our education, or lack there of, as far as dementia goes? I don't think so.


    Each case is different. I think of Leah, one of my fellow bloggers here on OurAlzheimer's. Leah has dementia. Leah is extremely bright and she is well educated. Her dementia is a problem for her, and she is proactive in dealing with it. However, she certainly doesn't seem to be on a "fast track" of memory loss because she is well educated. If anything, she seems to be staving off many symptoms through determination, courage and a lack of denial. She does research. She implements what makes sense. But she is realistic enough to plan for what, barring a miracle, will be her eventual decline.


    Leah is an individual. My uncle was an individual. My Mom. My dad. Each person I cared for was different. Each had a different type of dementia and a different "track," though all were fairly well educated.


    Studies are groups. People are unique. No one should be more afraid now, after this study comes out, than they were before. In regards to the previous study that stated that less education means an increased risk of dementia - no one who has less education should be paralyzed from fear of dementia. These studies are just steps along the very long and winding road to understanding dementia and preventing it. We'll have many false "positives." We'll have many detours. We'll have many "findings" disproved.


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    But somewhere in all of these studies, pieces will start to come together. Somewhere, sometime, there will be really significant progress. Then we'll be grateful for the journey, failings not withstanding.


    Click here to read Carol's earlier post titled More Education Means A Lesser Chance of Getting Alzheimer's, Dementia.


    To learn more about Carol, please go to or

Published On: October 22, 2007