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Hard Science

New Research Shows That Education May Be the Key to Avoiding Dementia

A nearly three-point drop indicates better brain health for America's aging population.

June JavelosaNovember 23rd 2016

Dementia Downslide

Dementia is a disease marked by progressive cognitive deterioration. According to the World Health Organization, there are 47.5 million worldwide who people suffer from it; and each year, there are 7.7 million new cases diagnosed. Those afflicted with it can lose the ability perform everyday activities and care for themselves as their memory and cognitive ability deteriorates.

As one of the major causes of disability and dependency among senior citizens, recent news about the decline of dementia among America’s older population is a beacon of hope. Based on data from a pool of over 10,000 Americans, 65 years old and older, the study evaluated trends from 2000 to 2012. The study revealed that 11.6 percent of the group evaluated in 2000 had some form of dementia, while the 2012 representative sample only had 8.8 percent.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, cites education as a possible reason for this downward trend. According to findings, those who have received the most years of education had the lowest risk of developing dementia.

Illustration of a healthy aged brain vs. one with Alzheimer’s. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Connection Between Education and Dementia

While the connection between education and dementia remains unclear, theories regarding the role education plays in lowering incidence of the disease are already being presented by the researchers.

One possibility, presented by lead author of the study Dr. Kenneth Langa, could be that “education might actually change the brain itself. We think that it actually creates more and more complicated connection between nerve cells so that you’re able to keep thinking normally later into life.”

Cardiovascular conditions typically associated to raise dementia risk are also more common these days, which means there’s more focus on treating these conditions, thus managing its effects more effectively.

“A change in the overall dementia forecast can have a major economic impact,” he adds. “But it does nothing to lessen the impact that each case has on patients and caregivers. This is still going to be a top priority issue for families, and for health policy, now and in the coming decades.”

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