The rate of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is falling in
Dementia rates also are down in
"For an individual, the actual risk of dementia seems to have declined," probably due to more education and control of health factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure, said Dr.
The opposite is occurring in some poor countries that have lagged on education and health, where dementia seems to be rising.
More than 5.4 million Americans and 35 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia. It has no cure and current drugs only temporarily ease symptoms.
A drop in rates is a silver lining in the so-called silver tsunami — the expected wave of age-related health problems from an older population. Alzheimer's will remain a major public health issue, but countries where rates are dropping may be able to lower current projections for spending and needed services, experts said.
Recent studies from
The federally funded
The average age at which dementia was diagnosed also rose — from 80 during the first period to 85 in the last one.
During that time, there were declines in smoking, heart disease and strokes, factors linked to dementia, and a rise in the number of people using blood pressure medicines and getting a high school diploma, which reduce the likelihood of developing the condition.
"The results bring some hope that perhaps dementia cases might be preventable, or at least delayed" by improving health and education, said the study leader,
"For those who get the disease, it may come later in life, which is a good thing. Getting the disease in your 80s or 90s is a very different than getting it in your early 70s," he said.
Researchers from the
Dementia prevalence — the proportion of people with the disease — also declined dramatically in women ages 74 to 85. There was a trend toward a smaller decline in men but the difference was so small researchers couldn't be sure of it.
The trends corresponded with fewer strokes and better treatment of high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, and more education, they said.
An updated study of dementia prevalence by Alzheimer's
The estimates were revised based on studies in
Researchers from the Universidad Icesi in
In countries where dementia appears to be declining, the rise in obesity and diabetes threatens to undo progress.
"It may be that what we have now is a sweet spot," where people with these problems are still relatively young, said Anderson, of the
Patient, family info: http://www.alzheimers.gov/
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