Does the Incidence of Dementia Decrease With Education?

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This image comes from the National Institute of Aging Scientific Image Collection.

Check out the February 11, 2016 NPR Shots Blog article, Can Dementia Be Prevented? Education May Bolster Brain Against Risk, to learn about a recent study that aimed to find out more about the prevalence of dementia using participants in the Framingham Heart Study during three periods between 1970 and the early 2000s.

The Framingham Heart Study began in 1948 and continues today. Originally it followed the health of 5207 men and women, continuing to follow them throughout their lives but it also enrolled additional cohorts of volunteers at various intervals. The scientists who set up the study believed that considerable medical knowledge would be gained by following the same group of people over long periods of time, documenting and analyzing their medical histories.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the research reported in the NPR article, describing how researchers analyzed participants’ data, determining the incidence rate of dementia in a group of 5205 Framingham participants.

After examining the data over four five-year periods spread over three decades, the researchers found that the incidence rate of dementia declined slightly during each of the four periods among people who completed high school and who had avoided various cardiovascular diseases.

While much more research must be done before reaching firm conclusions about education and Alzheimer’s, the study results remind us that increased education, beyond increasing knowledge, appears to benefit health.

To learn more about research into preventing brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimers, you might also want to read Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know from the National Institutes of Health.

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