Memory Loss And Other Cognitive Impairment Becoming Less Common In Older Americans
Memory loss and thinking problems are becoming less common among older Americans. (Credit: iStockphoto)
ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2008) â€” Although it's too soon to sound the death knell for the "senior moment," it appears that memory loss and thinking problems are becoming less common among older Americans. A new nationally representative study shows a downward trend in the rate of "cognitive impairment" -- the umbrella term for everything from significant memory loss to dementia and Alzheimer's disease -- among people aged 70 and older.
The prevalence of cognitive impairment in this age group went down by 3.5 percentage points between 1993 and 2002 -- from 12.2 percent to 8.7 percent, representing a difference of hundreds of thousands of people.
And while the reasons for this decline aren't yet fully known, the authors say today's older people are much likelier to have had more formal education, higher economic status, and better care for risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking that can jeopardize their brains.
In fact, among the 11,000 people in the study, those with more formal education and personal wealth were less likely to have cognitive problems.
Interestingly, the more-educated seniors who had cognitive impairment were more likely to die within two years. But the researchers say this may actually result from a protective effect of better education on a person's "cognitive reserve" -- their ability to sustain more insults to their brain before significant thinking problems arise.
The study is published February 20 online in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia by a team led by two University of Michigan Medical School physicians and their colleagues. The study is based on data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national survey of older Americans funded by the National Institute on Aging and based at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR)....
.....At the same time, the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, blood pressure medications and other preventive cardiovascular medications and strategies increased dramatically in the 1990s. These factors may have helped protect seniors' brain function by decreasing the incidence of vascular dementia -- cognitive problems brought on by mini-strokes, strokes and decreased blood flow to and within the brain due to "hardened" or clogged arteries.
Better living through chemistry.