Education May Cut Dementia Risk
The rate of dementia is slowing down, and a study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine has cited two reasons for that.
The study finds that people reaching the susceptible age range today generally have better cardiovascular health than the previous generations. Researchers saw a strong decline in vascular dementia , which is most directly linked to cardiovascular problems.
But investigators also discovered that a more educated population was also a factor in the decline in new dementia cases -- or at least in helping more people delay onset of dementia for longer.
The team looked at the cognitive status of 5,025 people aged 60 and older beginning in 1977 and found a steady decline of about 20 percent in new dementia cases each decade. And on average, people were older when they were found to have dementia: 80 years old in the 1970s, compared with 85 in the group evaluated 40 years later.
The decline in new dementia cases occurred only with people who had at least a high school diploma. High school graduates were also the only ones whose cardiovascular health, except for obesity and diabetes, improved steadily over the same 40 years.
The study authors wouldn’t speculate that education is beneficial in itself – it could be that less education is an indicator of other factors like poverty and unhealthy lifestyle. Also, the research couldn’t address the question of whether college education would indicate an even sharper decline in dementia cases, due to the small number of college graduates in the study group.