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US Dementia Rates Drop With Improvements In Education And Heart Health

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Dementia rates in the United States have dramatically dropped over the last decade, findings of a new study have shown. In a new study involving more than 10,000 people, researchers have found that the occurrence of dementia declined by about 24 percent between the years 2000 and 2012.

No Cure For Dementia

Dementia is an impairment of brain functions characterized by memory problems and personality changes. The condition remains one of the most expensive chronic illnesses with significant impact on patients and their families.

No cure is currently available to reverse dementia, which affects mostly older adults. Between 4 million and 5 million people in the U.S. get dementia diagnosis annually, but the impact of the illness is anticipated to grow in the coming decades as the number of older adults rises.

While forecast for dementia rates is bleak, researchers of the new study found a decline in dementia risk among older adults who participated in the research. The result of the study likewise mirrors findings of an increasing number of other studies conducted in other parts of the world.

Reasons Behind Declining Dementia Rates

Researchers said that the reasons behind the drop in the occurrence of dementia are not clear, but two factors stand out. The participants in 2012 spent more years in schools compared with participants in 2000. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure were likewise being controlled more aggressively.

"Increases in the level of education among the later-born cohort accounted for some of the decreased dementia risk, and there was some evidence that improvements in treatments for cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., diabetes) may also have played a role," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday.

"However, the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors contributing to the decline in dementia prevalence is still uncertain."

Influencing Future Impact Of Dementia

Regardless of the declining rate, researchers said that the problem with dementia and Alzheimer's has not yet been solved.

Study researcher Kenneth Langa, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, however, said that the result offers some hope and optimism that things can be done now to reduce the risk of dementia so the future impact, albeit still very large, may not be as dire as earlier anticipated.

"Even without a cure for Alzheimer's disease or a new medication, there are things that we can do socially and medically and behaviorally that can significantly reduce the risk," Langa said.

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