Alzheimer and other dementia-related diseases are on the decline in England and Wales, according to a study published in The Lancet.
This research found that dementia rates in England and Wales dropped by 25 percent over the past two decades.
The study published on July 17 states, “This study provides further evidence that a cohort effect exists in dementia prevalence. The latter born population has a lower risk of prevalent dementia than those born earlier in the past century.
A similar study conducted in Denmark came up with comparable results. It found that people in their 90s now are mentally sharper than those of previous generations who reached that age a decade ago.
Researchers say that such trends may also be occurring in the United States.
Dr. Marsel Mesulam, director of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University, told reporters the findings are “very exciting. The field had become pretty depressing with the news that the older you get, the more you lose cognition to the point where this could become almost inevitable if you live long enough.”
Experts say that the finding in this study suggests that people can avoid getting dementia and Alzheimer’s by controlling their lifestyle. They say simple lifestyle changes such as eating the right foods, getting exercise, giving up smoking can forestall and even prevent dementia and other age-related diseases.
Researchers have also long theorized that keeping the brain engaged can also avert dementia. They have suggested doing activities such as crossword puzzles, keeping socially active, and doing brisk exercises help.
Education, too, is associated with lower dementia rates. Researchers say that educated people tend to fare better than those with little education.
Dr. Dallas Anderson of the National Institute on Aging said recently, “You don’t need a Ph.D.” But, he said, being better educated may guide choices you make over a lifetime that help shield you from dementia.
Researchers also say those who keep their blood pressure and cholesterol under control are likely to fare better, possibly because they avoid dementia that is caused by mini-strokes and other vascular damage.
For years, research in the dementia-related diseases has been grim. There are no known causes and no cure.
Scientists have long warned that the number of people with dementia and brain-related diseases would double as the baby boom generation aged. In other words, the longer a person lived, the more likely that person would have of getting dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the greatest cause of dementia in older people, according the National Institute of Health (NIH).
According to NIH, “Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.”
NIH says that experts have suggested that as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease. A recent Alzheimer’s Association report stated, “It is expected an estimated 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s. Of those who reach 85, nearly one in two will get it.”
According to experts, the national death rate from Alzheimer’s is 25.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
The good news is that the recent two studies cast doubt or at least dampen the grim warnings sounded by public health officials and other advocacy groups who have cautioned of the rapid rise of the disease in older people.
Experts on aging say the two studies, the British and the Danish one, suggest that getting the disease is not inevitable. They say these studies confirm that dementia rates would fall as people paid more attention to their health.
According to experts, dementia is lower in those with a better education and also in people who control their blood pressure and cholesterol.
Referring to the two studies that show Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia are on the decline, Dr. Anderson, of the National Institute on Aging, said the news was good.
“With these two studies, we are beginning to see that more and more of us will have a chance to reach old age cognitively intact, postponing dementia or avoiding it altogether,” he said. “That is a happy prospect.”
By Perviz Walji