- A major new study suggests a possible link between a drop in dementia rates and lower rates of heart disease.
- The Framingham Heart Study followed 5,200 people and found rates of memory-robbing diseases declined by 44% since the late 1970s and early 1980s.
- Decreasing rates of heart failure, stroke and atrial fibrillation may account for some of the decline in dementia, but doesn’t account for all of it, the researchers said.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed dementia rates among people 60 and older were 2% in 2008, versus 3.6% in 1977. Those with less than a high school education showed no improvement in dementia rates, suggesting people with a better education were more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle and get regular medical care.
However, since Framingham, MA, is predominantly white, the study doesn’t provide much insight on rates of dementia in other ethnic populations. In a separate article by Kaiser Permanente and researchers at the University of California-San Francisco, African Americans were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias than Asian Americans, who had the lowest dementia rates, SFGate reported.
Also at higher risk for dementia were Native Americans and indigenous Alaskans. After those came Latinos, Pacific Islanders and whites.
More than 5 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s, and the number is expected to swell as millions of baby boomers age into their 70s and 80s.