There is a chance that education might be decreasing the risk of dementia in patients with at least a high school education. Perhaps there a solution out there to one of the greatest fears of old age.
- Researchers used data from a long-running study that started in 1948 with 5,000 subjects
- Rates of dementia have declined by 20% since the late 1970s
- However, it’s estimated that by 2025, 7.1 million people will develop dementia
- By 2050, this will raise the costs to $1.1 trillion
Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine reviewed data from a long-running study, called the Framingham Heart Study. It started in 1948 with 5,000 participants, but it has been a true goldmine to researchers due to the fact that it continued on with the initial subjects’ offspring. It aided their efforts in determining links between heart problems, high cholesterol, blood pressure, and obesity.
In 1975, the study’s reviewed factors extended to cognitive assessment, particularly the risk of developing dementia. To this day, it has become one of the most worrisome conditions for those approaching their twilight years. Particularly Alzheimer’s is one feared by everyone. It’s a slow disease that progresses with time, stripping the patient of precious memories, their very personality, and eventually, their life. And yet, the unfortunate condition has no cure.
According to the study, by 2025, around 7.1 million people over the age of 65 years old will develop dementia. That is a 40% increase from today’s number of cases, and the prospect looks even bleaker for the future. The Alzheimer’s Association claimed that the rate will increase, and will cost around $1.1 trillion by 2050. However, experts estimate that this is not true evidence that dementia is become more common.
In fact, they state that this is due to people living longer, which offers more time for the disease to appear. The rates have actually been going down.
After reviewing the data from the Framingham Heart Study, they observed that the number of cases has declined 20% since the late 1970s. Their findings also showed that this decline was observed only in people with at least a high school education. It is possible that there is an association between the two. However, their research does have limitations in spite of its longevity. The group of participants were almost exclusively of European descent, so it’s unknown if the decline is evident in other ethnicities.
But, education could be just one of the determining factors. Now that the decline has been noted, researchers are placed with the ever-important question: why? Dr. Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology from the university who authored the study, claimed that they now have to “redouble” their efforts. If the rates are going down that means that they’re “doing something right”.
David Jones, from Harvard Medical School, stated that people are noticing that we can now live longer lives. However, this arrives with unfortunate compromises. We have more time, but it’s marked by dementia, vision loss, and hearing loss. The quantity is more, but the quality gradually goes down. However, if history is taken into account, perhaps there is hope that it will not always be the case.
At one point, stroke was the leading cause of death around the world. Now, it’s fifth. Medicine has found a solution to it. Perhaps dementia could follow in the same path. They say only death and taxes are certain. But perhaps conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and dementia could be avoided.
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