There was good news this week when the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a 40 year look at dementia. They reported that dementia rates have declined as much as 40%. There are over 5.2 million seniors with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, and over 60,000 families affected here in San Diego. So this is a very serious problem.
The Framingham Heart Study has been following participants since 1948 and they discovered that each decade since 1980, that the dementia rates have declined. In the 80’s they declined 20%, in the 90’s declined 38% and in the 2000’s, the decline was a whopping 44%. This is great news.
So what could have caused the decline and what can we learn from it to make sure that the decline continues? Well, the study found two important factors. First the decline was only for those seniors who had completed high school or had higher education. The early cognitive enhancement created a cognitive reserve.
They also found that the over decline in cardiovascular disease had a major impact. For example, before the 80’s those who had experienced a stroke were 6 x more likely to develop dementia. Currently, those who have suffered a stroke are only 2 x more likely. This tells us that the prevention and treatment of serious strokes greatly improved over the last 40 years. As cardiovascular disease has declined so has dementia.
So how can we use this information to help prevent the dreaded dementia. Of course, seeing your doctor regularly to make sure that your blood pressure and cholesterol stays in the normal range helps to prevent strokes and heart attacks. According to this article this will help to prevent dementia. I would also recommend adopting heart healthy habits. As my husband had battled heart disease for more than 30 years I am well acquainted with the basics.
- Stop Smoking
- Exercise daily
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Decrease intake of animal and trans fats
- Eat abundant colorful fruits and vegetables
- Maintain social, romantic and family connections
- Manage stress with mediation, mindfulness and gratitude