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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Dementia rates decline: 03/28/2016

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health - a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM - that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

Dementia rates may be declining for better educated seniors and dementia may be occurring a little later in life, reports a comprehensive study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study finds a 20 percent average reduction in the risk to develop dementia among the more than 5,200 adults followed for 40 years in the respected Framingham, MA. heart study.

Among the study population with a high school diploma or higher, the study finds a consistent pattern of decline in dementia cases has occurred within the past four decades. For example, compared with the 1970s, dementia cases declined 22 percent in the 1980s; 38 percent in the 1990s, and by 44 percent in the first decade of the 21st century.

The study finds in the 1970s the volunteer participants who suffered a stroke were six times more likely to develop dementia. In contrast, in the 2000s, adults who had a stroke were only twice as likely to develop dementia.

The study's contact author told HealthDay the decline in dementia cases and strokes may be linked to improved heart health among the study's population.

The study reports consistent parallels between improvements in heart health (including smoking cessation, as well as improved cholesterol levels and weight control) with a decline in dementia among Framingham's senior participants.

Interestingly, the study finds the average age in recent years when participants developed dementia is 85 or higher, while it was about 80 when the Framingham study began in the 1970s.

However, the study's researchers noted there is no decline in the estimated number of Americans who will develop dementia because the population of seniors is growing in the U.S. Currently, about 5.2 million Americans, 65 or older, are estimated to have Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.

The study's contact author told HealthDay (and we quote): 'People are going to live to be older and be at greater risk of developing dementia' (end of quote).

Overall, the contact author told HealthDay the study's results suggest (and we quote): 'It's not that the burden of (dementia) is going to decrease, but it may not be exploding quite as rapidly as we feared' (end of quote).

Incidentally, the study's six authors add their findings may or may not be generalizable because the percentage of Framingham participants who are of European descent is somewhat higher than the greater U.S. population.

Meanwhile, MedlinePlus.gov's dementia health topic page notes several diseases can cause the memory loss, brain functioning, and emotional confusion that is associated with senility. An overview of dementia (provided by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) is provided in the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's dementia health topic page.

The Alzheimer's Association provides information about dementia's risk factors within the 'prevention and risk factors' section of MedlinePlus.gov's dementia health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's dementia health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about dementia as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's dementia health topic page, please type 'dementia' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'dementia (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus also has health topic pages devoted to Alzheimer's disease and memory.

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It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!