Feb 12, 2016

Rates of Alzheimer's Dementia Declining, Those Living with Dementia Still Rising

The chances of suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia are declining according to a new study based on the database of patients from the Framingham Heart Study.

On the other hand, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people living with dementia is expected to rise sharply in the future.

WHO estimates that 47.5 million are currently living with dementia, and the total number of people living with dementia is projected to reach 135.5 million by 2050.


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By Alzheimer's Reading Room

A new study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine indicates that;
  • The prevalence of dementia is expected to soar as the average life expectancy increases, but recent estimates suggest that the age-specific incidence of dementia is declining in high-income countries.
They found that the incidence of dementia declined about 20 percent per decade starting in the 1970s — but only in people who had at least a high school education.

Statistically speaking, by 2025 the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million in the U.S. This is a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million aged 65 and older now. Projections indicate that by 2050, the number of people living with dementia could reach 13.8 million in the U.S.

What's going on?

The risk of dementia on a statistical basis has been declining over the last 40 years. On the other hand, the number of people over the age of 65 is growing fast. This explains why we are anticipating a sharp rise in the number of people living with dementia.

It appears that risk factors such as education, smoking, blood pressure and medical conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol do make a difference.

I want to make something clear. You can exercise, eat well, not smoke, have good blood pressure, and good cholesterol and still get Alzheimer's.

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The real issue as I see it is how do you, or can you delay the onset of dementia?

Let me put it this way. My mom, Dotty, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 87. What if there had been a way to allow her to live a higher quality of life longer. So, lets say instead she was diagnosed at age 92.  In other words, she pushed it back by 5 years. I would take that any day; and, she would have too.

The goal should be to delay the onset as long as possible. Can it be done? I don't know and neither does anyone else. However, I do believe its possible.

In fact, I believe we slowed down the progression of Alzheimer's in my mom through exercise and diet.

One thing is certain. Everyone would say the same thing. After my mother exercised in the gym she looked livelier and seemed more there. So exercise did have a clear positive effect on her.

Why is exercise so important? Because no matter how old you are you can grow new brain cells. These new brain cells grow in the hippocampus. This is the first area attacked by Alzheimer's.

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So the question remains? Is it possible that the cumulative effect of having my mother exercise in the gym 5 days a week slowed the progression of Alzheimer's. I believe it did.

In other words, was my mom able to grow new brain cells and partially offset the loss of brain cells caused by Alzheimer's.

No matter what I think it is worth it to get into a real pattern of exercising 5 days a week. One thing for sure, you'll feel better.

Here is what one of the studies authors had to say.
“Currently there are no effective treatments to prevent or cure dementia; however, our study offers hope that some of the dementia cases might be preventable — or at least delayed — through primary (keep the disease process from starting) or secondary (keep it from progressing to clinically obvious dementia) prevention ... Effective prevention could diminish in some measure the projected explosion in the number of persons affected with the disease in the next few decades.” - Sudha Seshadri, MD, professor of neurology at Boston Univerity School of Medicine.
Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, put in nicely:
“The best way to maintain a healthy brain is to keep physically and mentally active, eat a balanced diet, not smoke, drink only within limits and keep diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol in check.”
I think each of us should focus on what might best keep our brain healthy. In other words, lets make the best effort we can to put the odds in our favor. After all, we do know what it is like living with dementia.

Let's beat it!

Related Content

Education May Cut Dementia Risk, Study Finds - The New York Times

Incidence of Dementia May Be Declining | Boston University School of Medicine

Can Dementia Be Prevented? Education May Bolster Brain Against Risk : Shots - NPR

Landmark Study Finds U.S. Dementia Incidence Highest In African Americans And American Indians

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