Getting older just got a little easier.
For those who assume that memory loss is part of aging, think again. In fact thinking is what this study is all about. Memory loss and dementia are decreasing among seniors with people over the age of 70 finding less problems in those areas.
7,406 seniors over the age of 70 were studied in 1993 where 12.2 percent showed memory problems and possibly early signs of Alzheimers.
Then in 2002, a group of 7,104 people over the age of 70 took the same tests. They scored better in memory 8.7 percent showed some impairment. This group also had 12 years of formal schooling compared to 1 years of the previous group.
Use it or lose it, researchers say encouraging that seniors do at least a daily crossword puzzle. The improved picture is attributed to lifestyle, economic status and a higher education. But University of Michigan researchers really haven't come to any formal conclusions.
Among the research:
- About 40 percent of the decrease in cognitive impairment over the decade ending in 2002 was likely due to increases in education and personal wealth.
- School attendance requirements, graduation rates in high school, enrollment rates in college or technical school, all went up in the period when the adults in the study were children and young adults.
- 72 per cent of people aged over 65 living in 2003 had a high school diploma compared with 53 per cent in 1990.
- The proportion of college-educated elderly also went up during that time, from 11 to 17 per cent.
During the time period tested, there were also more drugs that work on lower cholesterol, blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Reduced blood flow to the brain is known to impare mental functioning.
Dr. Kenneth Langa, the study's author says, "We also know cardiovascular health has a close link with brain health", he said, "so what we may be seeing here is the accumulated effects of better education and better cardiovascular prevention among the people who were over age 70 in 2002, compared with those who were over age 70 in 1993".
On the down side, type 2 diabetes could wipe out these gains for older Americans. Type 2 is often attributed to diet and weight gain and can often be reversed with healthier habits.
There are currently five million Alzheimer's patients in the U.S. today but that number is predicted to swell to 11 to 16 million by the year 2050.
The study is published in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia. #