More Education, Learning May Decrease Dementia Risk


People who have graduated from high school, according to a new study, have a decreased risk of developing dementia compared to those who did not finish. The report suggests that lifestyle changes and enhanced physical health can also prevent a delay of decline in cognitive function, writes Pam Belluck for The New York Times.

Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the study presents the most convincing evidence to date that more education and better cardiovascular health are contributors to a decrease in new dementia cases, or may be helping more individuals avoid dementia for a longer time.

Based on previous statistics, policymakers predicted the long-term cost of dementia care would be crushingly expensive.

However, a majority of the subjects of the study were white and suburban, so the results may not be applicable to all demographics. A recent report showed similarities among African-Americans in Indianapolis where new cases of dementia decreased from 1992 to 2001. The 2001 participants had added education and increased cardiovascular problems, but with more medical intervention.

Since diabetes and obesity can increase the risk of dementia, will the current high number of overweight or diabetic 40- to 50-year-olds create a flood of dementia cases when they become old enough to develop the condition? As baby boomers age and live for a longer time in the next decades, the number of dementia cases seems poised to increase.

Alzheimer’s and dementia cases are on the rise. In fact, says Dallas Anderson, a program director for the National Institute on Aging, the numbers are especially large because the growth of the aging population. He added that what happens during a person’s life does make a difference in their level of risk for developing a dementia-related affliction.

Currently, according to Nicole Gorman of Education World, there are 5 million US citizens who suffer from dementia or a general decline in memory skills and thinking. But four decades of research from the Framingham Heart Study indicates that the cases of individuals with dementia are on the decline. It also found that those who are better educated have a decreased risk of experiencing the condition.

LatinosHealth reported that a commitment to learning may boost long-term brain health:

“According to the researchers, people who are more educated could have lower risk of developing the condition because of better economic opportunity that one can get out of education. This could translate to healthier habits and better access to medical care. Another possible reason is that learning could boost brain health,” the article said.

Sudha Seshadri from Boston University’s School of Medicine said the central issue is that the more mentally healthy a person is, the better his or her brain is at dealing with the struggles of aging. Thus, formal education could play a part in increased brain health as a person grows older.

It has also been noted that people with more education and who participated in jobs that stimulated the brain experienced a delay of the onset of cognitive decline by five years compared to their counterparts with less education, says Rhodi Lee, reporting for Tech Times.

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