A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that education, coupled with improved changes in lifestyle and physical health can prevent or delay dementia or Alzheimer’s among other types of cognitive decline, the New York Times reports.
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The study is based on the fact that getting educated and improving one’s cardiovascular health may impact on the risks of dementia over time by staving off the disease or even preventing its occurrence.
One thing analysts have however questioned about the study is how diabetes and obesity impact on risks of dementia for diabetic and overweight adults who are over 50.
“You don’t want to give the impression that the Alzheimer’s or dementia problem is disappearing — it’s not at all,” said Dallas Anderson, a program director on dementia at the National Institute on Aging, one of two agencies that financed the study. “The numbers are still going up because of the aging population.”
Anderson noted that it is not sufficient to resign to the fact that you will get the disease because you have its genes in your body, but you must be proactive to take steps that will either prevent or postpone its occurrence.
Several research groups and dementia specialists predict that the current 5 million Americans having dementia will triple in number by 2050, but several studies being carried out in the US, Canada and Europe reveal that the incidence of the disease is fast declining among educated folks who have a better grip on their heart condition, lung health, blood pressure, and cholesterol level.
“There’s more studies suggesting that the risk is going down and we might have to rethink some of the projections of how big a problem dementia will be 30 years from now,” said Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan.
It must however be pointed out that Dr. Sudha Seshadri, a neurologist from Boston University Medical Center and a senior investigator with the Framingham Heart Study revealed that it is not quite known if education is beneficial in itself, or if it is a marker for other factors such as poverty and poor lifestyle because this was not parsed out during the study.
“That’s a major puzzle: What is the causal effect of education on dementia and cognitive function later in life?” said Michael D. Hurd, the director of the RAND Center for the Study of Aging.