Dementia Incidence Going Down? We’ll Just Have to Wait and See

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Is the incidence of dementia declining?

We really want this to be true, because it would mean a lot less suffering for our parents’ generation and in our own. It’s personal and as we age the threat of dementia feels closer and closer. Unfortunately, when we hear news about the incidence of dementia declining we need to remind ourselves that researchers are just beginning to examine this issue — right now we don’t really know.

In a study published in the May 8, 2012 issue of Neurology (abstract), researchers explained how they examined two cohorts of aging seniors in the Rotterdam Study. Beginning in 1990 researchers enrolled 10,994 men and women aged 55 and over and began following them up every two to three years, “aiming to investigate the prevalence and incidence of and risk factors for chronic diseases in the elderly.”

The researchers looked at two smaller groups of elderly participants, one group 1990 and a second similar group in 2000, and everyone in these smaller cohorts was free of dementia when they were initially examined.  

The data, including information from brain scans, indicate that the brains in the second cohort were healthier (less atrophy) and that the incidence of dementia noticeably declined. The decline, however, was not large enough to be statistically significant (the difference between the two groups could have occurred by chance). However, researchers (and the journal editors) felt that the decline was so close to being significant that the findings should be published and that close attention should be paid, given the greater attention to the cardiovascular risk factors that contribute to dementia in the rapidly growing older population.

The fight against dementia continues.

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7 thoughts on “Dementia Incidence Going Down? We’ll Just Have to Wait and See

  1. Reblogged this on where'smyT-backandotherstories and commented:
    The bad news in our corner of the world, that is, Southeast Asia, the incidence is not declining. Quite the contrary. Besides Alzheimer’s Disease, there too is the issue of Vascular Dementia which may be as common, if not even more common than Alzheimer’s Dementia or AD. Let’s do something about it!

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  2. Eva, I sat next to a medical researcher on a plane in January. He is researching Alzheimer and Parkinson’s and he said they are believing to think both diseases (except for a small %) it is caused environmental. The same factors that lead to diabetes and heart disease are also main factors in Alzheimer. High fat -high sugar diet, lack of exercise along with medals in diet (copper) and chemicals….. What are your thoughts?

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  3. Hi Eva, thanks for liking my post. I’m really glad I followed the link to your blog – my wonderful grandmother was diagnosed with vascular dementia last year so I’m very interested to learn more about this and related conditions.

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  4. I just learned that my 61 year old aunt has been admitted to a memory care unit with Alzheimer’s. Not sure I agree with this article, but I hope it is true.

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    • We all wish it were true right now, but it isn’t at this point. It is a possibility, albeit a slim one. The best that we can say is that the research has been peer reviewed, which means that other researchers have read the article and looked at the data, and agreed that it should be shared in a well known journal. Beyond that, we must wait for other similar research results — especially some with definite (not borderline) statistical significance.

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  5. I really hope this is true. Perhaps it could be because of increased awareness about the importance of diet? A lot of the research I’ve looked into lately talks about the harm that sugars can have on people’s health. Not only does massive sugar consumption lead to diabetes, obesity, and a host of other metabolic conditions – it can actually make dementia worse. Really, I think that any degenerative disease can be worsened with a poor diet.

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