A new study reports Alzheimer’s rates have been falling in each decade since the 1970s.
Learn more about this study, its implications for future dementia research and why scientists are proceeding cautiously, acknowledging that the disease is still a very real threat and looming burden for many families.
The dementia epidemic is real, threatening to bankrupt Medicare and wage emotional and financial devastation through its progression. According to the World Health Organization, 47.5 million people currently live with Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to triple to 135.5 million by 2050 if no cure or treatment is found. Additionally,
Experts predict the number of Americans living with the disease will increase by 40% to 7.1 million people by 2025.
However, researchers from the Framingham Heart Study have produced cautiously optimistic results, finding that there has been a gradual drop in the incidence of dementia in each decade since the 1970s. The study, set up to look into the causes of heart disease and stroke, began observing participants for cognitive decline and dementia in 1975. They found the rate of Alzheimer’s at any given age, fell by 20% each decade. They also found rates of dementia dropped more for Alzheimer’s linked to cardiovascular disease and found that people with a high school education and above were less likely to develop dementia.
Although the study revealed a drop in Alzheimer’s rates over four decades, researchers caution that our society will still see a growing burden of dementia over the next 20-30 years. The total number of people with the disease will grow as the baby boomer generation ages and people live longer.
Researchers acknowledge most of the participants in their study were of European descent, limiting the findings and calling for further studies to look into the rates of dementia for other populations.
Although there were limitations of the study, researchers still hope that their findings will spur donor agencies and other scientists to take a closer look into factors leading to a decline in the rate of dementia.
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