Researchers in the US have suggested that improvements in health may have contributed to a decline in dementia prevalence in certain sections of the population. The article, which discusses recent evidence on dementia rates in different age groups, is due to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The authors, from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, the University of California and the University of Michigan, describe a number of studies suggesting that people born later in the first half of the 20th century have a lower risk of dementia than previous generations. At the same time, they point to research linking increased education and improvements in cardiovascular health to a lower risk of dementia, suggesting that general health improvements may have contributed to a decline in dementia rates in this age group.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“It’s encouraging to see signs that the risk of dementia may be lower for later-born generations, and this article highlights the importance of understanding the different risk factors for the condition. We can’t say for sure what may have caused a fall in dementia rates for this age group, but much evidence points to a role for better education and cardiovascular health in reducing the risk of the condition.
“While it’s positive to see general improvements in health linked to a reduced risk of dementia in this section of the population, it will be important to track how trends such as rising obesity levels may affect dementia rates in younger generations. It’s also important to remember that age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, and with an ageing population the condition affects hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. Dementia remains an urgent priority with a huge impact on individuals and society as a whole, and research is the only way we can truly tackle the diseases that cause it.”