Study shows decades-long decline in dementia rates

“This first of the two included studies shows a decades-long decline in dementia ratesEncouraging news about dementia trends in 5,200 participants. I like the AMA Wire newsletter because they include a link to the research they quote. Without a subscription or paying a fee you get the abstract of the original research by following that link.” Bill Chesnut, MD

Study shows decades-long decline in dementia rates

According to USA Today (2/10, Szabo), a 5,200-patient study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that “dementia rates fell steadily over the past four decades, most likely due to declining rates of heart disease.” The biggest decline was seen in rates of vascular dementia, “although rates of Alzheimer’s disease also fell.” The study’s findings were based on data collected from the Framingham Heart Study.

The New York Times (2/11, A14, Belluck, Subscription Publication) reports that the study “provides the strongest evidence to date that a more educated population and better cardiovascular health are contributing to a decline in new dementia cases over time, or,” at a minimum, are “helping more people stave off dementia for longer.” Both findings “suggest that the long-term cost of dementia care may not be as devastatingly expensive as policy makers had predicted.” Nevertheless, “the actual number of dementia patients will increase because” aging baby boomers are “living longer.”

The San Francisco Chronicle (2/10, Colliver) reports that in a separate study (pdf), published online in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, investigators found that “the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia is significantly higher in some racial or ethnic groups than it is in others.” After tracking some 274,000 members of Northern California Kaiser Permanente for 14 years, the researchers found that “African Americans had the highest incidence of dementia-related disease.” In fact, “their risk was 65 percent higher than that of Asian Americans, who had the lowest rates” of dementia.